The state Public Service Commission has approved a settlement agreement that will allow Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) and a sister company to buy an Oklahoma wind farm and build a dedicated power line.
SWEPCO will own 70 percent of Wind Catcher Energy Connection and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma will own 30 percent of what will be the largest single-site wind farm in the nation. The project will cost $4.5 billion over 25 years.
Provisions of the settlement agreement, entered into by the PSC staff, the state Attorney General, SWEPCO, Walmart Stores Inc. and Sam’s West, included a cap on construction costs, that the project would qualify for 100 percent of federal production tax credits and that it would produce enough power annually to benefit Arkansas customers, whose investment into the project will be $607 million over the life of the wind farm. The settlement was submitted Feb. 20 to commissioners for approval.
Wind Catcher has been the target of an advertising campaign that ostensibly represented Arkansas and Louisiana consumers who objected to investment in a multistate utility project that would only partly benefit them. However, the campaign, “Protect Our Pocketbooks,” was supported by dark money and suspicious minds figured the gas industry, not regular Arkansas utility users, was behind the advertising.
SWEPCO will acquire a 2,000-megawatt wind farm under construction in the Oklahoma panhandle and will build a 350-mile dedicated power line to Tulsa, where the existing grid will deliver to its customers.
SWEPCO says its customers will realize savings on their utility costs beginning in 2021.