Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO), an American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) company, announced that the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) has approved the proposed Wind Catcher Energy Connection project.
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 Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. 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 a major investment in clean energy that will produce long-term savings for Louisiana customers and further diversify our energy resource mix," said Nicholas K. Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer. "After an extensive review, including the significant performance guarantees that were developed during the process, the Louisiana Public Service Commission's decision recognizes the benefits Wind Catcher will bring to Louisiana customers."
Key elements of the settlement agreement approved by the LPSC 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 in Louisiana of key components of the project's 800 wind turbines to be supplied by GE Renewable Energy.
"By tapping into this exceptional wind resource, we are further diversifying our energy resource mix and delivering long-term savings to the Louisiana customers and communities we serve," said Malcolm Smoak, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer. "Lower costs will benefit families, businesses and communities and make Louisiana more attractive for economic development."
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 231,000 customers in Louisiana, filed its application with the LPSC July 31, 2017.
The Wind Catcher project also remains subject to the approval of SWEPCO's applications in Texas, and PSO's application in Oklahoma. Six parties have joined with PSO in a settlement agreement pending before the Oklahoma Corporate Commission. The Arkansas Public Service Commission approved the project on May 8, 2018.
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