Public Service Company of Oklahoma will be going to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission later this year with an energy request after signing a lease with the U.S. Army for an energy resilience project on Fort Sill.

PSO, a unit of American Electric Power, signed the lease in early June, signalizing the official start of a partnership to build a facility that will combine natural gas fired reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICE) with Photovoltaic Solar (PV Solar) panels near Bentley Gate, on 80 acres of Fort Sill property. Stan Whiteford, with PSO corporate communications, said PSO and Army officials have signed a 30-year lease for the site, with a 10-year extension option, and now PSO will present the energy project to the Corporation Commission for approval, an application process the company expects to happen in August or September.

With commission approval, construction is expected to be underway by fall 2021, with completion in 2023, said Micah Budge, PSO energy services program manager.

Budge said discussion between PSO and the U.S. Army began in 2015, with the Army emphasizing its commitment to energy reliability and resilience projects.

Under the agreement between the Army and PSO, the energy company would build, own, operate and maintain the energy-producing site, while Fort Sill would have first claim on that energy in emergencies. Specifically, the energy complex would provide “100 percent of the power needed to sustain Fort Sill’s critical services for at least 14 days,” according to Army officials. During non-emergency times, the plant would provide an increase grid reliability and power to the community at large.

Budge said the facility would feature 36 megawatt natural gas-fired Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines (RICE) and up to 14 megawatts of solar energy power.

The facility will be built on the south side of Fort Sill, near Rogers Lane and Sheridan Road.

The PV Solar complex would be built on the east side of the Bentley Gate area, on 65 acres of what used to be the Artillery Village (a power line also would be built along Sheridan Road to feed into the PSO substation). The RICE, comprised of four 9-megawatt engines, will be built on 15 acres on the west side of the gate area, near the post’s softball fields. Budge said the RICE has a smaller footprint than does the solar panel project, so less land is needed.

Whiteford said construction is expected to start with the solar panels in fall 2021.

“The RICE generators would come in after that,” he said, noting that project has a shorter construction time because the solar panels have many more pieces.

Start to finish, construction is expected to take 2½ years.

“We want to do these types of projects,” Whiteford said of PSO’s commitment to the energy project, adding that while the company is interested in renewable energy sources that add power to the grid, it also knows the project is good for Fort Sill because it “increases mission readiness.”

Budge said this project may be the first of its kind for a military installation because it blends renewable solar energy with natural gas generators. Such resilience projects typically focus on one type of power (a joint military/commercial project in Hawaii is solar, he said).

Budge called the project a win-win-win. He said Fort Sill gets the energy protection it wants; PSO likes the project; and Lawton as a whole benefits because it is receiving a renewable power source and one that will provide more power to the local grid. And, the fact the plant is located on Fort Sill means it is in a secured location.

The cost of the project is still being finalized, Budge said, explaining the company is analyzing the Request for Proposals it sought earlier in the year.

“The bids will determine that (cost),” he said.

Whiteford said the completed project will add 50 megawatts of additional power to the local power grid.

“That, by far, is the largest benefit,” he said.

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