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solar energy

In January 2015, drought stricken Waurika Lake was dangerously low.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

There’s a $1 billion hole in the state budget that has consequences for Oklahoma’s environment and natural resources. A controversial state question could pit farmer against farmer. The ground beneath Oklahoma is shaking — figuratively and literally in 2016 — and StateImpact is on it.

The Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott speaks during Tuesday's protest on the steps of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission as other demonstrators hold signs voicing opposition to OG&E's demand charge proposal.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gas and Electric, the state’s largest electricity utility, wants regulators to approve new fees for customers who install solar panels. The request is now in the hands of Oklahoma’s three-member Corporation Commission, which has to weigh the real cost of reliable electricity and put a fair value on power from the sun.

The Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott speaks during Tuesday's protest on the steps of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission as other demonstrators hold signs voicing opposition to OG&E's demand charge proposal.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

About 30 demonstrators gathered outside the Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Tuesday.

Holding yellow umbrellas and chanting “Don’t Block The Sun,” the protesters spoke out against a proposal by Oklahoma Gas and Electric to include a demand charge on the bills of rooftop solar customers.

The Grand River Dam Authority's coal-fired plant in Chouteau, Okla., which is impacted by the Regional Haze Rule.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan enraged many top officials in Oklahoma, who argued the rules were an expensive, unnecessary overreach by the federal government.

But the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could create opportunities in Oklahoma, researchers and officials say.


rooftop solar panels
Michael Coghlan / Flickr

Oklahoma Gas and Electric is proposing a new “demand charge” be levied on customers who install rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines.

Gov. Mary Fallin meets with a worker at a July 2015 event commemorating Oklahoma Gas & Electric's new solar farm in Oklahoma City.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is synonymous with energy. It’s a major oil and gas state and one of the country’s leaders in wind power. But Oklahoma has been slow on solar energy, and experts say that’s because of state policy — not the sun.

SOLAR ‘SCIENCE EXPERIMENT’

Lawmakers, local business and community leaders, and workers in hardhats on July 27 gathered beneath a tent to celebrate the opening of a new solar power project in west Oklahoma City.

The guest of honor, Gov. Mary Fallin, arrived in an electric Nissan Leaf and made a few short remarks.

Our electricity system is changing rapidly around us. New sources of renewable power are meeting technologies that can crunch unprecedented amounts of data. It’s all leading to a major shakeup for how utilities do business. Dan Boyce from Here & Now’s contributor Inside Energy takes us to Fort Collins, Colorado, for a peek into our utility’s possible future.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The cost of producing and providing electricity generated by solar panels and wind turbines has plunged in recent years, and are on track to meet — and in some markets are already beating — the generation costs of conventional sources like coal and natural gas.

Brian Kusler / Flickr Creative Commons

Customers wanting to generate power from small wind turbines and solar panels without being assessed fees rushed to make sure such installations were fully operational by Saturday, Nov. 1. 

The solar power business is growing quickly in the U.S. More than 500,000 homeowners and businesses installed solar panels in just the first half of this year, according to a Solar Energy Industries Association report.

When people get electricity from the sun, they don't buy it from their local power company. But that utility still must have the generators and power lines to provide electricity when the sun is not shining. That's creating conflicts across the country.

Brian Kusler / Flickr Creative Commons

Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy will host a meeting to discuss the implementation of SB1456, the distributed electrical energy bill approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin earlier this year.

Murphy had called for inclusion of distributed generation in a notice of inquiry on wind generation approved by the commission Tuesday.

Commissioners Patrice Douglas and Bob Anthony, however, wanted to address the issues separately.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission Chairman Bob Anthony
Oklahoma Corporation Commission

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission plans to seek the public's input in the placement of wind farms and the regulation of rooftop solar panels.

The commission's public utility division held the second of two meetings last Friday that lay the groundwork for issuing a notice of inquiry on wind and solar issues.

Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed Senate Bill 1456, a measure that would allow regulated electric utilities to charge customers who generate electricity from rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines.

Brian Kusler / Flickr Creative Commons

A legislative measure that would allow electricity utilities to charge higher rates to customers who generate electricity with small solar installations or wind turbines has passed an Oklahoma House committee and now awaits Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature.

A wind turbine near Calumet, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Solar panel and wind turbine technology is improving rapidly, and many small-scale customers are excited by the potential to generate electricity and sell it — outright, or for credit — back to the grid.