Arkansas Utilities Benefit From Wind Energy Subsidies

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 12:00 am  

Wind energy generation is on the rise in the states surrounding Arkansas, and the renewable resource is seeing more use from some of the state’s utility companies.

Take, for example, Southwest Power Pool of Little Rock, a regional transmission operator with a footprint covering eight states.

It’s spending about $2.8 billion of a 10-year, $6.2 billion capital improvement plan to upgrade transmission lines throughout its footprint, much of which will benefit the company’s wind portfolio. It’s also planning to add 2,000 megawatts to the 8,000 it already uses.

Or consider Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., which is bumping its wind generation from 51 megawatts to 201 by the end of 2014.

In 2012, wind installations generated 3.5 percent of the U.S. electricity supply. The same year, total wind capacity increased by 13,100 megawatts, bringing the country’s capacity to about 60,000 megawatts, second only to China.

For context, a single one-megawatt wind turbine can power 240 to 400 homes in the U.S.

But whether Arkansan taxpayers see the benefits of that increase depends on where they live and whether utilities can obtain wind energy at competitive rates.

For example, Arkansans living in areas served by Entergy Arkansas Inc. don’t get any of their electricity generated by wind.

“EAI has no wind resources in its generation portfolio, in large part because we already have the cleanest portfolio in the state,” said Julie Munsell, a spokeswoman for the utility.

She said 70 percent of the company’s energy is produced from emission-free nuclear sources, and the company also recently acquired two high-efficiency natural gas plants.

“Also, we believe it is important to keep rates low for our customers,” she said. “In the recent past, we have considered proposals from wind producers, but the cost was significantly higher than other generation options.”

She said the company this year will again seek proposals for renewable sources, including wind, and will consider them if they are “economic.”

 

 

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