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Few make switch to wind power

The stream of utility customers buying into dedicated wind power is more of a gentle breeze than a gale force, but officials believe momentum is building nonetheless.

AEP-PSO’s WindChoice program, which allows customers to buy up as many 100-kilowatt-hour blocks of actual wind-generated power as they want, has signed up 300 paying volunteers in its first four months of existence. American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma has 525,000 customers statewide.

Kathy Champion, manager of the utility’s consumer programs, said she’s hardly disappointed in the three-digit response.

“We had fairly realistic expectations,” she said. “Obviously we would love more customers (enrolled in WindChoice), but it’s been a brutally hot summer and the economy’s not so great. Having 300 customers participating is a great thing.”

WindChoice allows customers the option if they want to pay a $1.72 premium for each 100-kwh block. Some can buy one block a month or pay for all their electricity needs with wind power.

The program’s electricity is generated directly by AEP-PSO’s wind farm in Minco. The facility produces the quantity of power according to the amount subscribed by WindChoice customers.

Champion believes that WindChoice enrollment is in line with company predictions. The utility recently started running advertisement to promote enrollment and hopes to have 1,200 to 1,500 signed up by WindChoice’s first anniversary next March.

“We’ve started to make the push to business customers,” she said.

AEP-PSO hopes to promote WindChoice by highlighting its sustainability factor, including for industrial or commercial customers seeking to earn environmental credits. The $1.72 charge for each 100 kwh actually costs about $1.58 when the fuel offset is taken into account, utility spokesman Stan Whiteford said.

More than one-third of WindChoice enrollees, or about 125 customers, are buying 100 percent wind power, Champion said. Another 100 are paying for at least 10 blocks – 1,000 kwh monthly, while the average purchase is seven blocks per month.

WindChoice recently earned certification from the national Green-E program. AEP-PSO’s voluntary wind energy service is the only certified green power option in the state, according to the utility.

“We wanted customers to be confident of what they were buying,” Champion said. “They’re getting 100 percent Oklahoma renewable energy. Nobody else is getting the credits for it. They are truly getting the product they are paying for.”

Oklahoma Gas & Electric, the state’s biggest electricity provider, does not have a branded wind-energy option like AEP-PSO’s WindChoice. Oklahoma City-based OG&E offers voluntary plans for buying wind power ranging from 25 percent to 100 percent of usage.

“We have approximately 10,000 customers who have opted to have purchased additional wind power,” OG&E spokesman Brian Alford said. “That number has remained relatively flat during the past few years.”

The soundtrack for AEP-PSO’s television commercials promoting WindChoice features a trio of noted musicians – producer Dave Barber, who has opened for Bob Dylan; Tractors frontman Steve Ripley; and James Burton, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist who played with Elvis Presley, among many others.

“Ripley, Barber and Burton did the music for all three spots,” Whiteford said. “Same theme for each one, just slightly different feel and instrumentation.”

AEP-PSO’s WindChoice by the numbers
Starting Date: March

Cost: $1.72 extra for each 100-kilowatt hour purchased.

Number of enrollees: 300.

Goal by first year: 1,200-1,500

Source: Minco Wind Farm.

Original Print Headline: Switching to wind