Electric utility companies across the south are snapping up wind power contracts – and now a utility in Mississippi may jump on the wind power bandwagon. South Mississippi Electric Power Association (SMEPA) recently released a request for proposals for up to 250 megawatts of wind power – a first for Mississippi! Depending on wind farm performance levels, 250 MW of wind power could represent around 8-9% of SMEPA’s power sales.
Other utility companies in the south already purchasing wind power include Alabama Power (404 MW), Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (309 MW), Georgia Power (250 MW), Gulf Power (178 MW), Southwestern Electric Power Company (469 MW) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (1,542 MW). Nearly all of those purchases have been announced within the past five years. By far, the low-cost of wind power is the primary reason southern utilities are making these significant purchases. Several utilities report wind power prices in the $30-$50 per megawatt hour (MWh) range ($0.03-$0.05/kWh range).
Even though the vast majority of southern utility wind power purchases are from out of the region (with Oklahoma and Kansas wind farms representing a significant amount of wind power purchase agreements), SMEPA’s RFP could receive attention from in-region wind farm proposals. New wind speed maps released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) demonstrate the greatly increased potential for wind turbine development in Mississippi with advanced turbines.
As wind turbines increase in height and are able to access better wind speeds, more areas become attractive for wind energy development within Mississippi. With these new wind turbines, over 43,000 megawatts (MW) of land-based wind potential currently exist in Mississippi. Developing just one gigawatt of wind energy capacity (1,000 MW) in Mississippi (less than 2% of Mississippi’s onshore potential) could power more than 255,500 homes a year! With SMEPA’s wind power RFP, soon all Gulf states could be partially powered by low-cost, clean wind energy.