Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC) said Wednesday (June 6) it will expand its energy portfolio through an agreement with one of the nation’s largest utility operators to purchase wind power electricity from a wind farm under construction in southeastern Oklahoma.
Little Rock-based AECC said it entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement with Wildhorse Wind Energy LLC, owned by Atlanta-based utility conglomerate Southern Power, to purchase up to 100 megawatts of energy produced by the Wildhorse Mountain Wind Facility in Pushmataha County, Okla., near the southern Oklahoma border about an hour from the Arkansas border. No terms of the deal were disclosed.
Last week, Southern Power announced its wholesale energy subsidiary had acquired the Wildhorse facility now being developed through a partnership between Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc. (RES) and Vestas. That project will consist of 29 Vestas wind turbines, and is expected to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2019.
“Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) works on behalf of more than 500,000 electric cooperative members to add resources, like the 100 megawatts of capacity from Wildhorse Mountain … to its generation portfolio,” said Duane Highley, president/CEO of AECC. “This wind facility along with AECC’s diverse, reliable generation portfolio provides energy at the lowest possible cost to our members.”
According to the earlier development agreement, RES will provide the balance of plant construction for the Oklahoma wind farm facility, and Vestas will provide long-term maintenance of the turbines through a 20-year service agreement.
AECC intends to sell the renewable energy credits associated with the electricity produced by Wildhorse facility but does not claim the electricity to be sold from this resource to its member cooperatives and others is “green,” “renewable,” “clean” or has any other environmental attribute. In Arkansas, AECC provides wholesale power to Arkansas’ 17 electric distribution cooperatives that provide electricity to approximately 500,000 homes, farms and businesses in Arkansas and surrounding states.
According to AECC spokesman Rob Roedel, AECC now owns or has purchase power agreements for a total of 4,280 megawatts of generation capacity. AECC’s generation plants include three natural gas/oil-based plants, three hydroelectric generating stations on the Arkansas River, and four natural gas-based plants. AECC also owns portions of four coal-based power plants in Arkansas.
“In addition to its owned generation assets, AECC has purchased power agreements for additional energy resources including hydroelectric energy from the Southwestern Power Administration, biomass energy, wind energy and solar energy,” Roedel said. “Altogether, the total amount of these resources represents more than 18% of the cooperative’s generation and energy portfolio.”
UTILITIES REDUCE COAL, NUCLEAR TIES
Southern Power and its subsidiaries own 49 facilities operating or under construction in 11 states with more than 12,300 MW of generating capacity in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas. The Wildhorse facility will be the 10th wind project acquired by Southern Power, which is among several top utilities that have committed to reducing the use of nuclear and coal-fired and power on the nation’s energy grid.
“Wildhorse Mountain is a great project for Southern Power’s growing footprint and a shining example of our collaborative partnership with RES,” said Southern Power President and CEO Mark Lantrip. “Our long-time partner Vestas was also a key player in delivering on this project. We look forward to its completion and operation.”
The Arkansas Public Service Commission on May 8 approved Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) application for the controversial Wind Catcher Energy Connection project, a $4.5 billion project that will deliver wind energy from the Oklahoma Panhandle to the utility’s customers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.
SWEPCO, owned by Columbus, Ohio, utility giant American Electric Power (AEP), has more than 117,000 customers in Arkansas. AEP, a competitor to Southern Power, has announced plans to invest approximately $17.3 billion over the period 2017 to 2019 in its core regulated operations and contracted renewables. That plan included the sale of four power plant with 5,200 megawatts of power, including a coal-fired facility in Cheshire, Ohio.
Entergy Corp., the New Orleans-based utility giant and parent company of Entergy Arkansas, has also moved forward with plans to exit the merchant power business, which includes the sale of several older nuclear, natural gas and coal-fired power plants and strategic investments to grow its renewable energy portfolio. Entergy’s plans call for eventual shutdown of its coal-fired operations at the White Bluff Electric Station in Jefferson County, instead of a costlier EPA plan to install scrubbers atop the smokestacks of the sprawling power plant by 2021.
Entergy Arkansas CEO Rick Riley has said the proposed haze controls for the White Bluff power plant does not warrant an investment of more than $2 billion in scrubber technology. Under the Entergy plan, the utility would cease all coal-fired operations at the two coal-fired units in 2027 and 2028.
Last week, Entergy Arkansas and Florida utility operator NextEra Energy, celebrated the completion of Arkansas’s largest solar energy project. The Stuttgart Solar Energy Center in Almyra was built on 475 acres and includes more than 350,000 photovoltaic solar panels with the capacity to generate 81 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 13,000 homes.