SWEPCO to add 72.5-megawatt solar farm to energy portfolio

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 675 views 

Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO), a utility of Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power, announced Tuesday (Feb. 1) plans to purchase renewable energy from a 72.5-megawatt solar array that’s expected to benefit customers in three states, including Arkansas. The project supports the utility’s long-term clean energy goals.

The array, Rocking R Solar Facility, will be about 20 miles north of Shreveport, La., and is owned by D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments (DESRI), who will continue to develop, construct and operate it. SWEPCO has a 20-year agreement with DESRI affiliate Rocking R Solar LLC to purchase the energy it produces. SWEPCO has the option to purchase the array after 10 years. SunChasePower LLC initiated development of the project. The array can power about 12,000 homes annually.

SWEPCO is seeking approval of the project from the Arkansas Public Service Commission. It also will be reviewed by the Louisiana Public Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The project proposal will the filed in Texas at a later date.

“The combination of more efficient and affordable renewable facilities and impending generation asset retirements have allowed SWEPCO to accelerate the transition to clean energy our customers and stakeholders have long desired,” said Malcolm Smoak, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer. “Solar energy from this facility will help SWEPCO’s customers meet their own renewable energy and sustainability goals, and it will make communities more competitive for economic development.

“The fixed price supply of solar energy, which is unaffected by fluctuations in fuel prices, is a significant benefit to SWEPCO customers,” he added. “Rocking R will provide SWEPCO customers with reasonably priced renewable energy and savings compared to other generation and supply options over the length of the power purchase agreement.”

Also, customers can purchase renewable energy certificates, and revenue from the certificate sales will offset fuel costs for all SWEPCO customers, according to a news release.

“Our DESRI team is pleased to partner with SWEPCO to deliver cost-effective clean power to their customers across Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas,” said Hy Martin, chief development officer at DESRI.

In June 2021, SWEPCO sought proposals for up to 300 megawatts of solar resources and up to 3,000 megawatts of wind resources. SWEPCO expects to file for regulatory approvals in the second quarter of 2022 for resources selected from the proposals.

SWEPCO’s renewable energy portfolio includes 810 megawatts of wind energy from the North Central Energy Facilities and 469 megawatts of wind energy and power purchase agreements. Two of the North Central facilities started operating in 2021. The third is expected to start operating in early 2022.

In late January, Entergy Arkansas, a utility of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., announced its 100-megawatt Searcy Solar Energy Center has started operating. The company’s first battery-storage solar farm can store 30 megawatts. Searcy Solar is one of three plants producing solar power for its customers. It also has 81-megawatt Stuttgart Solar and 100-megawatt Chicot Solar. Entergy Arkansas has 280 megawatts of renewable resources under development and is seeking proposals for up to 500 megawatts of solar and wind capacity.