SWEPCO Wind Power Comes Online

SWEPCO Wind Power Comes Online
Wind turbines at the Traverse Wind Energy Center in Oklahoma (American Electric Power)

Southwestern Electric Power Co. customers in Arkansas and Louisiana are now reaping power from the 998-megawatt Traverse Wind Energy Center in Oklahoma, "the largest single wind farm ever built at once in North America."

The Traverse center, the third and last wind generation piece in the multi-utility North Central Energy Facilities project in north central Oklahoma, began providing renewable energy on Monday and is part of a long-term shift by American Electric Power, SWEPCO’s parent company, toward renewable generation and away from fossil fuels.

SWEPCO owns 54% of the $2 billion NCEF wind project, and it estimates its giant turbines will save its customers $2 billion in electricity costs over 30 years. The project’s 1,484 megawatts of capacity is enough to power about 440,000 homes, officials said in a news release.

Renewable power developer Invenergy of Chicago, which has several wind projects in Oklahoma, built the NCEF project, including Traverse. The company is also nearing completion of the new 100-megawatt Walnut Bend Solar Project for Entergy Arkansas on about 1,200 acres in Lee County, Arkansas.

"We are excited to have the final piece of the North Central Energy Facilities project in place to bring even more clean and affordable energy to customers in Arkansas and Louisiana," SWEPCO President and CEO Malcolm Smoak said in a statement. "This wind energy helps customers meet their own renewable energy and sustainability goals and makes the communities we serve in Louisiana and Arkansas more competitive for economic development."

Companies considering where to place operations are increasingly making renewable power a deal-breaker, and Smoak said SWEPCO’s energy resource diversity will continue to increase.

"This transition puts us further along the path to achieve AEP’s goal of net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050," he added. AEP, based in Columbus, Ohio, has a total 31,000 megawatts of generation capacity; 7,100 of those megawatts are from renewable sources.

"Traverse is part of the next chapter in AEP’s transition to a clean energy future," AEP Chairman, President and CEO Nick Akins said in a statement. "The commercial operation of Traverse – the largest single wind farm ever built at once in North America – and the completion of the North Central Energy Facilities is a significant milestone in our efforts to provide clean, reliable power to our customers while saving them money."

The other two parts of the North Central Project, besides Traverse, are the Sundance at 199 megawatts and the Maverick wind project at 287 megawatts. Both went online last year.

The Traverse facility, which straddles Blaine and Custer counties in north-central Oklahoma, includes 356 GE Renewable Energy wind turbines and is connected to the regional transmission grid that serves SWEPCO customers. The turbines’ huge blades stretch 400 feet into the sky, creating a new landscape on the wind-swept plains.

The news release said that SWEPCO, based in Shreveport, will reap about 809 megawatts from the NCEF project, with 464 megawatts going to Louisiana, 268 megawatts to Arkansas and 78 megawatts to wholesale customers.

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