The US’s largest proposed wind project has been cancelled. American Electric Power’s planned 2-GW Wind Catcher wind farm in Oklahoma will now not proceed, the utility announced on July 27.
Ohio-based AEP cited Texas regulators’ failure to approve the US$4.5 billion project the previous day.
Wind Catcher was meant to be eligible for generous production tax credits from the federal government, which are being phased out, and delays could have affected its eligibility. Louisiana and Arkansas regulators had approved the project, but their counterparts in Texas and Oklahoma had requested more time to review it.
Multi-state approvals of permission for a wind project, in this case to be built in the Oklahoma Panhandle, are inherently problematic for a developer. AEP’s various utility subsidiaries needed regulatory approval in their home states to proceed.
The project would have used 800 2-MW wind turbines manufactured by GE and a 350-mile (563-km) power line. A 3-GW two-phase wind farm in Wyoming – the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre project – and a transmission line to run many hundreds of miles to near Las Vegas and backed by Anschutz remains under way.
But the now-defunct Wind Catcher would have been the largest to be built in one phase.
A few days before the announcement, during a second-quarter earnings call, AEP executives had expressed some nervousness about Wind Catcher’s progress. “We cannot afford to continue to allow this thing to languish. Construction has started. The company is incurring expenses,” CFO Brian Tierney told analysts.
“In deference to commissions... we’re saying the end of August, and that’s where we’re at.” He referred to the need to order some crucial equipment – with a long lead time – by August 6.
“We are disappointed that we will not be able to move forward with Wind Catcher, which was a great opportunity to provide more clean energy, lower electricity costs and a more diverse energy resource mix for our customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas,” said AEP chairman, president and CEO Nicholas Akins in a statement.
“To realise the full benefits of Wind Catcher for customers, timely approvals were required from all jurisdictions so we could complete the project by the end of 2020 and be eligible for 100% of the federal production tax credit.”
Also during the earnings call, Atkins spoke of the multi-state company’s broad plans, but he pointed out: “You won’t see another Wind Catcher-like project.”