The state's famously-shaped and windy panhandle region will be hosting the Wind Catcher Energy Connection project. A huge wind farm with hundreds of individual wind turbines, the project was developed by Invenergy LLC and will be built by SWEPCO.
"After a series of negotiation sessions with the [Arkansas Public Service Commission] General Staff, the Arkansas Attorney General, and other parties, SWEPCO agreed to provide a number of guarantees," read the SWEPCO press release. Some of the guarantees include enforcing a cap on construction costs, meeting 100 percent of the federal Production Tax Credits, and ensuring the Wind Catcher project meets a minimum energy production quota every year.
Now that it's put that legal hurdle behind its back, SWEPCO expected the Wind Catcher project to proceed smoothly.
Wind Catcher requires approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the utility commissions in four different states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma. The SWEPCO project must be able to deliver wind energy to customers in all four aforementioned states before the end of 2020. (Related: Wind energy company sues to hide bird fatality data from the media.)
Featuring 800 wind turbines, the Wind Catcher facility will be the largest single-site wind farm in the U.S. Each General Electric-built wind turbine will generate 2.5 megawatts (MW) of power. Total energy output for the Oklahoma-based wind energy facility is expected to be 2,000 MW.
SWEPCO will also set up an extra-high-voltage power line between two new substations that are 360 miles apart. One substation is located at the Wind Catcher facility itself while the second is at Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"Oklahoma's panhandle has some of the best wind in America but is hundreds of miles from larger cities and communities that can benefit from low-cost, clean energy," explained project developer Invenergy LLC. "Wind Catcher Energy Connection is a $4.5 billion infrastructure investment that will bring Oklahoma wind power to more than 1.1 million energy customers in the South Central U.S.," Invenergy promised.
Venita McCellon-Allen, president and chief operating officer of SWEPCO, said the company was highly satisfied with the settlement agreement. She described the Wind Catcher project as an immense opportunity to deliver clean, cheap energy to customers which will save money in the long run.
Project savings are expected to reach $4 billion over a 25-year period. That's fairly close to the total cost of the Wind Catcher project.
"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," reiterated the press release.
SWEPCO promised that its customers will start seeing savings in 2021. By that point, they will be spending much less money on fuel.
Retail giant Walmart put in its own two cents regarding its expectations for the Oklahoma wind farm. "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," said Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy for Walmart.
According to Vanderhelm, wind energy provided by the upcoming Oklahoma-based wind farm would be a big contribution to Walmart's pursuit of clean energy.
Keep track of wind energy development at Power.news.