Arkansas Public Service Commission approves SWEPCO wind project

Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO), an American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) company, has received Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) approval of its request to add 810 megawatts (MW) of wind energy.

The APSC on May 5 modified and approved provisions of a unanimous settlement agreement filed Jan. 24, 2020, by the APSC General Staff, the Office of Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Walmart, Inc. and SWEPCO.

 “We are excited for this opportunity to bring more clean, low-cost renewable energy to our Arkansas customers,” said Malcolm Smoak, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer. “The Arkansas Public Service Commission has demonstrated a strong commitment to renewable energy, and the parties in this proceeding recognize the many benefits of clean energy and long-term savings for the families, businesses and communities we serve.”

SWEPCO is proposing to acquire three wind facilities in north central Oklahoma – known as the North Central Energy Facilities – in conjunction with its sister company, Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO). Pending regulatory approvals, SWEPCO will own 810 MW, or 54.5% of the 1,485-MW project with an investment of $1.01 billion. SWEPCO and PSO will acquire the projects at their completion in 2020 and 2021. 

In addition to the environmental benefits of wind energy, SWEPCO customers will save an estimated $2 billion over the 30-year expected life of the new facilities.

“We know this project is important to many of our customers – like Walmart, the City of Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas and many other companies, communities and individuals – who are looking to SWEPCO to help them meet their own sustainability and renewable energy goals,” Smoak said. “This project taps into one of the best wind energy resources in the country to help meet our customers’ needs.”

SWEPCO is also seeking approval of its proposal from utility regulators in Louisiana and Texas. The proposal is scalable to align with regulatory approvals by state, subject to commercial limitations. Two states that approve the project would have the ability to increase the number of megawatts allocated to them if one state does not approve the proposal.

As approved by the APSC, the Arkansas share of the project is estimated to be 155 MW and could increase to 268 MW depending on regulatory approvals in Louisiana and Texas.

SWEPCO and all Louisiana parties reached a unanimous settlement agreement in March 2020 with a final decision pending at the Louisiana Public Service Commission. The parties are continuing to work through the regulatory process in Texas.

PSO received final Oklahoma Corporation Commission approval Feb. 20, 2020, of a settlement agreement in its plan to add 675 megawatts of wind energy, or 45.5% of the 1,485 MW project.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved the acquisition of the wind facilities by SWEPCO and PSO.

The APSC’s May 5 modification to the settlement agreement specified that cost recovery for the project will be through the company’s formula rates. All parties accepted the modification on May 8.

SWEPCO serves more than 536,300 customers in three states, including 119,800 in Arkansas, 231,000 in Louisiana and 185,500 in Texas.