Coal power plants don’t usually come with silver lining, but in the case of Arkansas’ John W. Turk Jr. 600-megawatt coal power plant, the silver lining is approximately 400 megawatts of wind energy purchased by Southwestern Electric Power Co (SWEPCO), a subsidiary of American Electric Power. After much protest to the Turk plant and a lawsuit from the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, and Audubon Arkansas, SWEPCO settled the lawsuit in December 2011 with some promises to do a big of green good. As a result, SWEPCO’s half a million customers throughout western Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas are getting 407.85 megawatts of wind power added to their grid.
SWEPCO signed 20-year purchase agreements to secure 201.25 megawatts from Canadian Hills Wind in Oklahoma, 79.6 megawatts from High Majestic Wind II in the Texas Panhandle, and 77.8 megawatts from Flat Ridge 2 Wind Energy in Kansas. Adding on another 49.2 megawatts from Canadian Hills Wind purchased by Turk plant co-owners, Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, the grand total of 407.85 megawatts gets them just above the 400 MW of renewable energy required by their settlement.
All three wind farms are expected to be up and in action by the end of 2012, and will connect to SWEPCO’s service through the Southwest Power Pool’s transmission facilities. While their customers won’t see huge savings, SWEPCO estimates a .1 cent per kilowatt-hour reduction in cost over the next 10 years. These new projects quadruple SWEPCO’s wind power capacity – previously just 110.5 megawatts.
Venita McCellon-Allen, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer spoke of the recent purchase, “Through the Louisiana Public Service Commission’s recent Renewable Energy Pilot Program and our ongoing efforts to expand our renewable energy portfolio, we were in a good position to pursue additional renewable resources at a good price for customers.” Whether SWEPCO will continue to purchase clean energy sans court order is something only time will tell.