SunPower to build a 10 MW PV plant in… Oklahoma?

Following up on this week’s theme of utility-scale solar developments in unlikely states, today SunPower and Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E) announced that construction will begin on a 10 MW solar project due north of Oklahoma City next month.

The project will utilize SunPower’s new P-Series modules, which feature an overlapping cell design, and its Oasis Power Plant modular system. SunPower has hired Florida-based contractor Moss to construct the plant on an 80-acre site in Covington, Oklahoma, a town of 527 inhabitants in the wheat fields of Garfield County.

OG&E will own the project, and SunPower will supply operations and maintenance (O&M) services.

This is not SunPower’s first plant in Oklahoma, and follows on a 2.5 MW project which SunPower built for OG&E in Mustang, Oklahoma in 2015. However, solar panels either on rooftops or in large projects are a rare sight in the Sooner State, which is among the bottom 11 state markets that GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) do not even track in their quarterly reports.

According to U.S. Department of Energy filings, there is around 3.3 MW-AC of distributed solar in the state. Even assuming that this does not include the Mustang project, the Covington plant will more than double Oklahoma’s installed solar capacity.

More importantly, the project is a sign that solar is coming to all 50 U.S. states, and follows on news earlier this week that Duke has contracted for 6.8 MW of solar plants to be built in Kentucky – another “bottom 11” state.

Also, this does not mean that Oklahoma is not participating in the transition to renewable energy. In 2016 the state’s wind turbines met nearly 1/3 of Oklahoma’s electricity demand. This placed Oklahoma only slightly behind Iowa, which met 42% of electric demand with in-state wind during the year, in terms of penetration of wind.