March 13, 2018

PSO, Walmart reach Wind Catcher agreement

By Ryan Miller, Staff Writer | Enid News & Eagle | March 12, 2018 |

Public Service Company of Oklahoma and Walmart on Friday reached a settlement agreement on the proposed Wind Catcher Energy Connection project.

In the agreement with Walmart, PSO made additional guarantees beyond those initially offered, which, according to the company, include new reporting requirements, a lower cost cap on project construction costs, and an assurance Oklahoma customers will at a minimum receive the same benefits afforded to sister company Southwestern Electric Power Co.’s customers.

PSO also will provide guarantees that the project will be eligible to receive 100 percent of the Federal Production Tax Credits; a minimum net average capacity factor at the western bus-bar of 44.7 percent for each of the five consecutive five-year periods during the project’s operation, and a number of other guarantees and agreements, according to the settlement agreement documents filed March 9.

“Projects like Wind Catcher help Walmart meet our goal to be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy,” said Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy at Walmart. “As a PSO customer, we look forward to seeing this important project move forward to provide the renewable, affordable energy we need to help meet our business goals.”

Wind Catcher Energy Connection, a joint effort between PSO and SWEPCO, is a $4.5 billion project that involves building a wind farm in Oklahoma, a 350-mile 765 Kv power line across the state and two substations. PSO’s share of the project investment is $1.36 billion.

The wind farm, to be built on 300,000 acres in Cimarron and Texas counties in the Panhandle, will include about 800 2.5 MW wind turbines. A power line will stretch from there to the Tulsa area , bringing 2,000 megawatts of energy to customers in Eastern and Southwestern Oklahoma, in addition to parts of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Development of the line route began in the summer of 2017, and the project is expected to deliver wind energy to customers by the end of 2020.

PSO and Walmart are requesting the Oklahoma Corporation Commission approve the project under the terms of the settlement agreement. PSO is awaiting on a decision from OCC for preapproval of the company’s request to allow PSO to charge ratepayers to help fund the project and recover an anticipated expenditure of the $1.36 billion.

“We appreciate the opportunity to work with Walmart, one of our valued customers, to advance the Wind Catcher project,” said Stuart Solomon, PSO president and chief operating officer. “This agreement recognizes the tremendous benefits Wind Catcher will deliver to Walmart and all of our other customers across Oklahoma.”

The company claims Wind Catcher is supposed to save PSO customers about $2 billion over the expected 25 years the project is in service. The new wind energy from the project will complement PSO’s current power resources, comprised of natural gas, wind, power purchases and coal.

PSO also has said Wind Catcher will add thousands of jobs to the state economy and provide $60 million in state and local taxes during construction, and while in service, provide an estimated $300 million in property taxes and 80 to 90 permanent jobs.

The project has faced backlash and hurdles, including an OCC administrative law judge filing a 136-page recommendation in February against preapproval of the project. On Feb. 23, PSO filed an exceptions report against the judge’s recommendation.

A number of leaders in Northwest Oklahoma have expressed support for the project while others and numerous landowners set to have their properties impacted by the power line have voiced concern and opposition.

Solomon told the Enid Regional Development Alliance in January that PSO expects a decision from the commission by about April 1.

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