- Missouri regulators on Wednesday approved Ameren's proposed 400 MW wind energy project, expected to be the state's largest once operational in 2020.
- The utility, which continues to negotiate with other project developers, needed the additional capacity to meet its renewables goal. Ameren needs between 700 MW and 800 MW to comply with Missouri's Renewable Energy Standard (RES) to meet 15% of its annual retail sales by 2021.
- High Prairie Wind Farm will be constructed by TG High Prairie Holdings, owned by Terra-Gen, and subsequently transferred to Ameren under a build transfer agreement (BTA), allowing the utility to leverage the developer's expertise and acquire a late-stage wind project in the state.
The falling cost of wind, combined with the federal production tax credit (PTC), has pressed many Midwest utilities to consider the resource. In its 2018 Q3 investor call, NextEra officials said they expect the resource to remain viable in the coming years.
Ameren officials say the 700 MW necessary to meet its RES requirements according to its 2017 integrated resources plan are slated to rise in the next few years.
Investor-owned utilities in Missouri are now required to supply 10% renewable energy and beginning 2021 the requirement rises to 15%.
High Prairie is "the first in a series of wind generation projects required for RES compliance," Ajay Arora, Ameren's vice president of power operations and energy management, said in filed testimony. He called the project "an essential part of the company’s overall RES compliance strategy."
The RES requirements as well as the annual reduction in the federal production tax credit pushed the schedule ahead, according to Arora.
He called High Prairie a "cost-effective means of meeting a part of the RES requirements" and said it would provide long-term benefits to the utility's customers.
"The build transfer agreement structure allows Ameren Missouri to leverage the developer's expertise with wind generation construction and acquire a late-stage wind project in Missouri," Arora said. "The BTA arrangement is the best structure for capturing the entire value of the approximately $400 million in Production Tax Credits the project will generate."
Over the summer, Missouri lawmakers authorized Ameren to spend $1 billion over the next five years on grid upgrades, while also lowering customer rates roughly 5% and then capping them for at least two years. The utility has also begun offering new renewables programs aimed at large commercial and industrial customers and municipalities "of any size."