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Published: Sun, July 30, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

GE nabs turbine deal for 2-GW wind project in Oklahoma

GE nabs turbine deal for 2-GW wind project in Oklahoma

American Electric Power (AEP) will invest $4.5 billion in a wind energy project in Oklahoma that could become the largest wind farm in the USA, the utility announced Wednesday.

The project is subject to regulatory approvals in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The project also includes a high voltage, 350-mile transmission line, key to shipping the output to customers in the South and lower Midwest.

The project is expected to be completed in 2020, which will allow it to take advantage of the production tax credit for wind energy, according to AEP. The company has one wind farm under construction and two more are in the planning stages.

Although the generating capacity and wind speeds on the Gulf are lower than those on west Texas wind farms, Gulf wind is more reliable during peak power demand periods in the morning and afternoon, the Houston Chronicle reported. However, AEP appears to be veering slightly off the normal course of signing a PPA contract with the developer, and instead wants to purchase the assets outright. These customer savings, which begin in the first year of operation, are over and above the costs of the Wind Catcher project. But energy experts say there is too much momentum behind the rise of renewables for those pro-coal policies to slow wind and solar farm development. The Wyoming project is also being built in two phases, which will make Wind Catcher the largest USA project to be built in one go.

The utility expects to file its request with regulators on July 31, and is hoping for approvals by April 2018. Across the country, 29 wind projects, representing a combined 3,841MW, announced that they either began construction or entered advanced development in April through June 2017, for a total of 25,819MW of wind projects now underway.

"The path to unlocking America's full energy potential is clear with another strong jump in the number of wind projects moving forward", said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, in a statement. The commission's task will be to "find out if we agree that this is a good resource for Arkansas customers, and whether it is cost-effective", Bethel told Arkansas Business.

SWEPCO also serves Louisiana, where it is based in Shreveport, and Texas.

"AEP's engagement comes at a critical time, when renewable energy is seeking more commercial support as federal policy support wanes, and even state level support in light of the recent elimination of Oklahoma's state zero-emission tax credits", said Daniel Shreve, partner at MAKE Consulting, a Wood Mackenzie company.

PSO said the Wind Catcher project is expected to provide customers net savings of more than $2 billion over its useful life.

SWEPCO is a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP).

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