TULSA – Public Service Co. of Oklahoma and its sister company, Southwestern Electric Power Co., are once again asking regulators to allow them to recover costs for projects that would add more wind power to their generating fleets.
If regulators agree, the companies would build, own and operate three wind-powered facilities that would be located across seven counties in north-central Oklahoma and would add 1,485 megawatts of electricity to the regional grid.
PSO would own 45.5% of that, allowing it to access 675 megawatts of that energy to add to its mix.
Officials said Monday they want to add the energy sources to continue to boost their reliance on natural gas and renewable energy sources to keep energy costs affordable in the future.
“Our long-range goal at PSO is to rely on a well-balanced mix of natural gas and renewable sources like wind to meet the needs of our customers,” Peggy Simmons, PSO’s president and chief operating officer, stated in a release announcing the utilities’ plans.
“We’re excited about this opportunity because it will save our customers money and boost the state’s economy with new investment and tax revenues.”
The proposed $2 billion project would build the wind farms across parts of Alfalfa, Blaine, Custer, Garfield, Kingfisher, Major and Woods counties.
The power PSO would get, officials said, would add to 1,137 megawatts of wind energy it already secures for its customers through existing wind power purchase agreements.
PSO serves more than 550,000 customers in eastern and southwestern Oklahoma and has about 3,800 megawatts of generating capacity.
Officials said wind power currently represents about 22% of the utility’s generating capacity mix, and estimated Monday that PSO customers would save more than $1 billion in bill costs over the projects’ operational lifetimes of about 30 years, even after it had recovered its share of the costs to build them.
Officials said PSO opted to join Southwestern, which serves 536,000 customers in western Arkansas, northwestern Louisiana, northeastern Texas and the Texas Panhandle, to build the projects after each conducted a competitive bidding process to meet future power needs earlier this year. Both utilities are subsidiaries of American Electric Power.
The utilities said they expect the farms would be online by December 2021, pending regulatory approvals. Both also said they plan to boost the use of natural gas and solar generating resources to continue to meet its customers’ power needs during the next decade, officials said.
PSO spokesman Stan Whiteford said the proposal represents an effort both utilities are making to hedge against projected future fuel costs, which would keep costs for customers affordable and boost the region’s economic development opportunities.
The projects, he said, also would benefit the counties where they are located by adding to their tax bases, plus would create an estimated 50 permanent jobs.
As with all generation projects, the utilities could chose to build the ones they proposed on Monday without preapproval from regulators to recover costs. However, utilities typically don’t make those types of large investments without securing that authorization from regulators first.
The utilities’ request will be considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state regulators in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas.
This proposed plan seeks to achieve the same benefits for customers as one the utilities proposed a couple of years ago called Wind Catcher. In that case, they asked regulators for preapproval to recover costs for a 2,000-megawatt farm in Oklahoma’s Panhandle and a transmission line hundreds of miles in length to get the energy from there to the utilities’ grids.
If that deal had been approved, PSO would have owned 30% of the proposed projects and would have been allowed to recover its expected costs of about $1.4 billion from its customers. But the utilities pulled the plug on that project about a year ago after Texas regulators rejected the plan.
Whiteford said Monday’s announced plan does not include a proposed transmission line.
“The energy from the farms will get onto the grid just as all existing wind power we have, through existing transmission facilities,” he said.