Fayetteville reeling after Wind Catcher canceled

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 1,879 views 

Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power (AEP) announced July 27 it was canceling the $4.5 billion Wind Catcher project after the Public Utility Commission of Texas denied it, and the city of Fayetteville has been reeling from the decision as the project was a significant part of its clean energy goals.

“We’re extremely disappointed,” said Peter Nierengarten, sustainability director for Fayetteville. “It’s frustrating.”

The city has yet to fully develop a backup plan to fill the gap in renewable energy in which the project would have allowed, and Nierengarten was unsure if the city’s goals in the energy action plan would be delayed.

On Jan. 2, Fayetteville was the first Arkansas city to commit to operate on 100% renewable energy, with a goal of powering all government operations with 100% clean energy by 2030 and the entire community by 2050.

The city is working with AEP utility Southwestern Electric Power Co. and Fayetteville-based utility Ozarks Electric Cooperative on other renewable energy options, including wind and solar energy, Nierengarten said. While he’s not ready to announce plans for a new renewable project, he hopes to be able to announce another project by the end of the year.

Arkansas and Louisiana public service commissions had previously approved the Wind Catcher project. It would have been the largest wind farm in the United States and the second largest in the world once operational. The planned 2,000-megawatt facility was to generate power from 800 General Electric Co. 2.5 megawatt turbines on 300,000 acres in the Oklahoma panhandle. As part of the project, a 350-mile transmission line would have been built between the wind farm and a substation near Tulsa to deliver power across the region.