The Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) has determined the Wind Catcher Energy Connection project is in the public interest.
The APSC's decision approved provisions of a settlement agreement submitted in a Feb. 20 joint motion by the APSC General Staff, the Arkansas Attorney General, Southwestern Electric Power Co., Walmart Stores, Inc. and Sam's West, Inc.
Wind Catcher Energy Connection is a major wind farm and a dedicated power line that will bring low-cost, clean, reliable energy to AEP customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. The $4.5 billion project includes the acquisition of a 2,000-megawatt wind farm under construction in the Oklahoma Panhandle, and construction of an approximately 350-mile dedicated power line that will carry the wind energy to the Tulsa area, where the existing grid will deliver it to customers. SWEPCO will own 70 percent of the project. SWEPCO's sister company, Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO), will own 30 percent.
"Wind Catcher is part of our strategy to invest in the energy resources of the future. The Arkansas Commission's decision recognizes the long-term savings and clean energy that Wind Catcher will deliver to our customers," said Nicholas K. Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer. "The Commission thoroughly evaluated our application, including the substantial performance guarantees that were developed during the review process, and they agree that Wind Catcher will provide significant savings and long-term benefits for customers."
The major elements of the settlement agreement approved by the APSC are guarantees agreed to by SWEPCO, including a cap on construction costs, qualification for 100 percent of the federal Production Tax Credits, minimum annual production from the project, and other commitments.
SWEPCO anticipates the project will save its customers more than $4 billion over the 25-year life of the wind farm, compared to the projected costs of buying power on the open market.
Cost savings include no fuel cost for wind, which lowers SWEPCO's overall fuel and purchased power costs; full value of the federal Production Tax Credit, which is available for construction of new wind farm projects; and the cost-efficient delivery of the wind generation to customers through the new, dedicated power line.
Customers will see savings primarily through a reduction in the fuel portion of their bills, beginning in 2021.
The economic impact of the project will include manufacturing key components of the project's wind turbines in states served by SWEPCO. GE Renewable Energy, which will provide 800 of its 2.5-megawatt wind turbines for the Wind Catcher facility, anticipates that a significant number of turbine blades will be manufactured in Arkansas.
"This project further diversifies the energy resource mix serving SWEPCO customers. Many of our customers – including Walmart, the City of Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas – and other companies, communities and individuals are looking to us to help them meet their own sustainability and renewable energy goals," said Brian Bond, SWEPCO vice president of External Affairs. "By tapping into this excellent wind resource and economically delivering the energy to all of our customers, we can provide low-cost clean energy to power the communities we serve."
Wind Catcher is the largest single-site wind project in the United States. The wind farm is under development by Invenergy in Cimarron and Texas counties in the Oklahoma Panhandle. SWEPCO and PSO will purchase the facility at completion, which is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2020.
SWEPCO, which serves more than 117,000 customers in Arkansas, filed its application with the APSC July 31, 2017.
The Wind Catcher project is also subject to the approval of SWEPCO's applications in Louisiana and Texas, and PSO's application in Oklahoma, as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.