AEP proposes $4.5B to buy 2 GW Oklahoma wind farm
- Invenergy and GE Renewables, a unit of General Electric, announced they are constructing a 2,000 MW wind farm in Oklahoma as part of the so-called Wind Catcher Energy Connection project.
- American Electric Power (AEP) has asked regulators in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma for permission to purchase the $4.5 billion wind facility outright instead of through a standard power purchase agreement for the output. 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 one of the biggest wind farms under construction in the United States and is scheduled to be completed in 2020. For comparison, the Wyoming Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind farm is expected to boast a nameplate capacity of 3,000 MW, and construction started near the end of last year.
More utilities are eyeing investments in wind farms to boost renewable energy in their power mixes. 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.
Bloomberg notes a trend of utilities trying to purchase these facilities and recover costs instead of buying the output from the developer through a contract, especially as solar and wind costs decline and compete with natural gas and coal.
A recent levelized cost of energy analyses from Lazard said onshore wind LCOE is between $32/MWh and $62/MWh—lower than that of a combined cycle natural gas plant, which ranges from $48/MWh to $78/MWh.
This wind facility is one of the most ambitious ones to date in the United States. At 2,000 MW, it would serve 1.1 million customers under AEP subsidiaries Public Service Co. of Oklahoma and Southwestern Electric Power Co. The project is expected to save those customers $7 billion in net costs over a 25-year span, according to a joint press release from GE Energy and Invenergy. In addition, AEP estimates 4,000 direct jobs will be created through construction, along with 80 permanent job once the facility is operational.
About 9,000 MW of wind energy came online last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, beating hydropower as the largest installed base capacity for renewable energy. Much of that installed capacity is centered in Texas, but Oklahoma has long been prime territory for wind. The state recently prematurely sunsetted a state wind credit due to the high volume of wind energy buildout.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind project had yet to begin construction. It is under construction and is expected to be the biggest single wind farm in the United States.
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