New Louisiana Settlement Supports SWEPCO’s Wind Catcher

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Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO), a unit of American Electric Power (AEP), has announced a new settlement agreement in the Louisiana Public Service Commission’s (LPSC) review of the company’s request for approval of the proposed Wind Catcher Energy Connection.

The signed settlement agreement includes SWEPCO, the LPSC general staff, and Walmart Stores Inc. and Sam’s West Inc. By joint motion to be filed soon, the parties will ask the commission to approve the project under terms of the settlement agreement.

The agreement in the Louisiana proceeding follows a Feb. 20 agreement filed in the Arkansas Public Service Commission’s (APSC) review of the project. Decisions are pending in SWEPCO’s applications for approval in Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas, as well as sister company Public Service Co. of Oklahoma’s (PSO) application in Oklahoma.

The $4.5 billion Wind Catcher project includes the acquisition of a 2 GW wind farm under construction in the Oklahoma Panhandle and construction of a 360-mile dedicated generation tie line to the Tulsa area, where the existing electrical grid will deliver the wind energy to customers. SWEPCO will own 70% of the project; PSO will own 30%.

“We are extremely pleased with this settlement agreement, as the Wind Catcher project is an exceptional opportunity to reduce customers’ electric bills, bring more clean and affordable energy to homes and businesses, and further diversify the generation resources serving our Louisiana customers,” comments Brian Bond, SWEPCO’s vice president of external affairs.

SWEPCO has agreed to provide a number of guarantees, including a cap on construction costs, qualification for 100% of the federal production tax credit, and minimum annual production from the project.

“Walmart has a goal to be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy, and sourcing from wind energy projects – like the Wind Catcher project – is a core component in the mix,” says Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy for Walmart. “The energy procured by SWEPCO from this project represents an important leap forward on our renewable energy journey.”

SWEPCO anticipates that the project will save its customers more than $4 billion, net of cost, over the 25-year life of the wind farm. 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 of key components of the wind turbines in states served by SWEPCO. GE Renewable Energy, which will provide 800 of its 2.5 MW wind turbines for the Wind Catcher facility, anticipates that a significant number of turbine blades, towers and generator frames will be manufactured in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.

According to the developer, Wind Catcher is the largest single-site wind project in the U.S. 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.

The project is subject to approval by utility commissions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma, as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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