Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC) is a generation and transmission cooperative that provides essential electric service to 22 member cooperatives, Altus Air Force Base, and other power users. WFEC has been in existence for over 72 years, and has grown into Oklahoma’s largest locally owned power supply system. WFEC was organized in 1941 when western Oklahoma rural electric distribution cooperatives found it necessary to secure an adequate power supply at rates farmers and rural industrial developers could afford.
On February 21, 1941, representatives of nine rural electric distribution cooperatives met in Oklahoma City to form a generation and transmission cooperative to be owned by the cooperatives it served. The incorporators provided for individual rural electric cooperatives to petition for membership. On April 25, 1941, the cooperative approved the membership of six cooperatives. These six members were joined by four other cooperatives later that year.
In April 1942, Anadarko was chosen as the location for WFEC’s headquarters. Thirty acres of land was purchased just outside the northeastern city limits. In cooperation with the government, the Board of Trustees shut down construction at the start of World War II, and released the newly acquired generators to be used in the war effort “to aid in the defense of our country.” When the war ended, WFEC added an eleventh member, and after construction was complete, WFEC started producing power in 1950.
During the Sixties:
Eight eastern Oklahoma rural electric distribution cooperatives joined WFEC in 1968, bringing the total number of member-owners to 19.
Also in 1968, another 125,000 kilowatt (kW) addition was completed at Mooreland. Sales and income continued to increase and rates remained stable. Power plants at Anadarko and Mooreland received high marks in the early 1970’s, based on operating efficiency.
Highlights from the Seventies:
As gas contracts expired, WFEC faced prices that were much higher than the original deals. A fuels division was created in 1974, and for the first time WFEC became involved in the production of natural gas. In 1975, Mooreland’s capacity was again boosted by 135,000 kW.
Due to inflation factors, the cost of generation in the mid-1970’s jumped from 8.66 mills per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 13. For the first time, WFEC leaders began to explore coal and nuclear generation as alternatives. One bright spot during the turbulent 1970’s was the completion of the 300,000 kW combined cycle unit at Anadarko, which was 10 times the size of the original system. It was praised then as the most thermal efficient concept in the world.
By 1976, engineering studies began for a 400,000 kW coal-fired generating plant in eastern Oklahoma. At a news conference in October 1977, after considering 51 possible sites, it was announced that the coal plant would be built near Fort Towson, east of Hugo.
Also in 1976, WFEC entered into agreements with Public Service Company of Oklahoma and Associated Electric Cooperative of Springfield, Missouri to be part owner of the giant Black Fox nuclear facility to be built in northeast Oklahoma. Groundbreaking at the Black Fox location was hosted in August 1978. Site preparation work had been given the go-ahead and numerous permits had been received.
To control peak demands, a load management program was considered, following a survey in which members indicated that they were already practicing energy conservation.
Into the Eighties:
As the time approached for the Hugo Power Plant to come online in the early 1980’s, six miles of railroad was built into the coal yard, along with 330 rail cars being purchased. The Hugo Plant went commercial on April 1, 1982. While construction at Hugo moved ahead steadily, the Black Fox project was at a standstill, due to nationwide opposition to nuclear generation following the Three Mile Island accident. In February 1982, the three utility owners agreed to terminate Black Fox and withdrew licensing application, which had been pending since 1975.
In Anadarko, a four-story addition was added to the office facilities, with completion in 1980.
In the late 1980’s, a push began to sell surplus power. Cities, including Anadarko, Cordell, Ft. Supply, Lindsay, Mooreland and Anthony, Kan., Electra, Texas and Clarksville, Ark. began looking to WFEC for direct service.
On to the Nineties:
As WFEC approached the 1990’s, assets were in excess of $650 million, with a total generating capacity of 1,338 megawatts. Power was sent along some 3,200 miles of line to more than 220 substations. Employees totaled around 418.
In 2001, the planning phase for capacity studies was completed, with WFEC’s growth rate averaging in excess of 3 percent, calculating to approximately 35 megawatts (MW) a year.
GenCo Units 1 and 2 became operational in May 2001. The new 90 MW power plant is owned by WFEC EnergyCo, LLC.
A suite of Energy Management Services were added through the Marketing department to help in attracting new key account customers for member cooperatives. A push to increase energy efficiency was also promoted, with more than 76,000 compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs being given to all WFEC cooperatives for distribution to their own members.
In January 2003, WFEC became the first power supplier to sign a purchase power agreement (PPA) with a wind farm developer. This step would be the first of many into the wind farm development arena. The Blue Canyon Wind Farm, near Lawton, began commercial operation in December 2003, with a nameplate capacity of 74.25 megawatts.
A second PPA was signed in 2008 with Edison Mission Group for the purchase of wind energy from Buffalo Bear Wind Farm, an 18.9 MW facility in Northwest Oklahoma. In keeping up with trends, WFEC signed a third PPA with Acciona Energy for the purchase of wind energy from the Red Hills Wind Farm. This facility, which began commercial operation in June 2009, is located near Elk City, with a nameplate capacity of 123 MW.
Between the three purchases, WFEC had 216 MW of wind energy available, which marked close to 8 percent of WFEC’s fuel blend. However, WFEC currently does not retain or retire all of the environmental attributes from the facilities.
A long-term renewable energy purchase agreement signed in late September 2010 between WFEC and TradeWind Energy will boost WFEC’s wind energy MW total to 341 MW. This wind energy producing facility, a 125 MW site, is expected to be completed in June 2012. Named the Rocky Ridge Wind Project, this new venture will be located between Hobart and Cordell, near the community of Rocky.
Once this project is operational over 15 percent of WFEC’s total annual electricity production will come from power purchase agreements with wind farm generators in Oklahoma.
In May 2009, the WFEC headquarters’ site was struck by an EF2 tornado that caused widespread damage to numerous building structures, vehicles, transmission and substation structures, transmission and distribution maintenance buildings and the power plant. No one was injured by the destructive storm, as it hit around 9:30 p.m.
In August 2009, the new Bob Orme Combustion Turbine (CT) Units, located on the east grounds of WFEC’s Anadarko site, were completed. This capacity expansion project, used primarily for peak demand, provided an additional 145 MW of natural gas-fueled electricity generation. The new units are named after longtime WFEC employee Bob Orme, who was serving as the general manager of power production at the time of his death. Significantly, the Bob Orme CT Units represent the first new generation built that is solely owned and operated by WFEC since the Hugo Plant was completed in 1982.
Then, in October 2010, WFEC had the unique opportunity to add four cooperatives, headquartered in New Mexico, into the family, bringing its total membership to 23 cooperatives. These cooperatives came to WFEC seeking membership after learning their PPA agreements would not be extended with their existing power supplier. Together, these four cooperatives have a total of approximately 400 MW of load. A representative of each cooperative was then added to the Board of Trustees.
WFEC has five generating facilities located at Mooreland, Anadarko and Hugo, and a total power capacity of more than 1,700 MW when purchased hydropower is included. WFEC owns and maintains more than 3,600 miles of transmission line to more than 265 substations. Approximately 360 employees work at WFEC. Members consist of 22 distribution cooperatives, located in Oklahoma and New Mexico, in addition to portions of Texas and Kansas. WFEC also serves Altus Air Force Base.