A wind farm project has been nixed entirely following mounting controversy from locals and a unanimous rejection from state regulators in Texas.
American Electric Power (AEP), a major U.S. utility company, announced Friday its decision to cancel plans to build the Wind Catcher project — a proposal to construct a 2-gigawatt wind farm in Oklahoma’s panhandle region and connect it to a grid in Tulsa.
If completed, the $4.5 billion proposal would have been the biggest single renewable energy project in the country. AEP’s decision came a day after Texas utility regulators unanimously rejected it.
“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,” Nicholas Akins, AEP president and CEO, said in a company statement.
AEP cited the Public Utility Commission of Texas’ denial of the project as the reason for their decision, stating that swift approval of all regulators was necessary to reap taxpayer benefits.
“To realize 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 percent of the federal production tax credit,” Aikins continued. “We remain committed to finding new solutions that add value for our customers.”
The Wind Catcher project had already attracted controversy from locals concerned with the possible devaluation of property and health risks that could stem from high-voltage power lines in their neighborhood. Residents in Creek, Payne, Tulsa, and Osage counties campaigned against the project.
The project had obtained approval from regulators in Arkansas, Louisiana, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Oklahoma was nearing a decision.
However, a fatal blow was dealt when Texas regulators denied approval, framing the advertised benefits of the project as precarious.
“The costs are known. We know what the costs are, likely – although those are projected. But the benefits are based on a lot of assumptions that are questionable,” DeAnn Walker, the Public Utility Commission of Texas chairwoman, stated dealing a public hearing.
Akins has said that cancellation of Wind Catcher would not affect the financial standing of the utility.