Arkansas Utility Announces Investment In Nation's Largest Wind Farm

Jul 28, 2017

An electric utility that serves about 113,000 customers in western Arkansas says it plans to buy a significant portion of the nation's largest wind farm, currently being built in the Oklahoma panhandle and scheduled for completion in 2020.

Southwestern Electric Power Company, or SWEPCO, is announcing plans to invest in the Wind Catcher Energy Connection Project, which still needs final regulatory approval. The utility expects to file its request with regulators on Monday and is hoping for approval by April 2018.

Peter Main of SWEPCO explain that, under the plan, the company would own 70 percent of the facility and Public Service Company of Oklahoma would own 30 percent.

"The wind industry has come quite far along and this project is indicative of that. We have a real opportunity here to tap into one of the highest wind resources areas in the country in the Oklahoma panhandle and connect it with our system," said Main.

SWEPCO also will help build an approximately 350-mile power line from the Oklahoma panhandle to Tulsa to deliver the wind energy to customers.

Wind Catcher Energy Connection Project Map

SWEPCO Graphic of Expected Energy Sources When Project is Complete

Peter Main of SWEPCO explains the utility currently buys power from wind farms in the Texas, central Oklahoma, and Kansas area. He says this continued investment in clean energy is key to low prices and a mix of energy resources.

The cost of wind power has fallen drastically in recent years.

SWEPCO says cost savings include: (1) no fuel cost for wind, which lowers SWEPCO’s overall fuel and purchased power costs; (2) full value of the federal Production Tax Credit, which is available for construction of new wind farm projects; and (3) the cost-efficient delivery of the wind generation to customers through the new, dedicated power line.

The power company notes customers will see savings, primarily through a reduction in the fuel portion of their bills, beginning in 2021. The project is subject to regulatory approvals in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, as well as by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.