Oklahoma high school basketball: Roundup of Friday's tournament action

NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Billion dollar savings blowing in as Public Service Co. of Oklahoma gets approval to add wind

Turbines cover a limestone ridge as part of the Blue Canyon wind farm in southwest Oklahoma. Public Service Co. of Oklahoma buys energy from the farm to help supply electricity to its customers.[OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
Turbines cover a limestone ridge as part of the Blue Canyon wind farm in southwest Oklahoma. Public Service Co. of Oklahoma buys energy from the farm to help supply electricity to its customers.[OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

Oklahomans are projected to save more than $1 billion in electric costs over the next three decades through a plan by Public Service Co. of Oklahoma to add wind energy.

The plan will add more than a half-gigawatt of wind-generated energy to PSO's portfolio of power.

PSO, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, serves more than 550,000 customers in eastern and southwestern Oklahoma who could benefit from the plan approved by Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners Thursday.

The company is being allowed to spend $908 million to acquire 675 megawatts of energy that will be generated by three wind farms being built across cross parts of Alfalfa, Blaine, Custer, Garfield, Kingfisher, Major and Woods counties.

PSO expects the additional assets will first achieve savings through federal production tax credits the utility will receive as part of its deal to acquire its share of ownership in the three wind farms.

Later, customers will benefit due to reduced costs to generate electricity using the wind farms compared to using natural gas or coal.

The combined projects are expected to add 1,485 megawatts of total capacity to the grid that covers the Great Plains operated by the Southwest Power Pool.

The wind farms will cost about $2 billion to build. While PSO buys power from numerous wind farms, these are the first it will co-own.

PSO proposes joint ownership with a sister utility Southwestern Electric Power, which is also part of American Electric Power.

Southwestern reached a settlement agreement with regulators in Arkansas authorizing its plans, while hearings are set on its proposal before regulators in Louisiana and Texas.

Were Southwestern to not follow through, however, PSO’s deal will proceed, utility officials previously have said.

Technically, commissioners cleared the way for the acquisition by approving a jointly stipulated settlement agreement PSO made with regulators including: the commission’s Public Utility Division, the Oklahoma attorney general, Walmart, other companies represented by the Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers organization and the Oklahoma Sustainability Network, an organization that promotes wind energy development across the state.

The plan approved this week differs from an earlier plan PSO proposed called the “Wind Catcher” project.

Unlike the earlier project, PSO will not need a new, special line to carry energy from these projects onto the portion of the grid serving the Southwest Power Pool it operates.

Instead, existing lines will carry the energy to PSO’s customers.

“With our careful selection of these facilities, we get a great price, great wind velocity and we are able to tie this into our system without the need for an immediate line, and hopefully none ever," Matthew A. Horeled, PSO’s regulatory and finance vice president, previously told commissioners.

On Thursday, utility officials said they are ready to see workers get busy on the projects, which are expected to be fully operational by early 2022.

“Approval of this agreement will allow our customers to have their energy needs met with affordable, Oklahoma wind energy and will add significant investment in our state,” said Peggy Simmons, PSO’s president and chief operating officer, who added the utility appreciated various parties’ willingness to work toward reaching the settlement agreement.

After Thursday’s meeting, corporation commissioners stated they felt the agreement benefits Oklahoma and its residents.

“Oklahoma has once again shown the rest of the U.S. what can happen when parties work together in the best interest of the state,” Commission Chairman Todd Hiett said, noting the agreement adds diversity and reliability to the state’s energy portfolio — something needed to help it continue to grow.

The settlement is “a classic win-win,” agreed Commissioner Dana Murphy, who highlighted the savings PSO customers are expected to see through the plan.

The agreement, she continued, will give Oklahoma “even more to offer prospective companies looking for a state that can meet their energy needs.”

Commissioner Bob Anthony stated he likes ratepayer protections the settlement includes that guarantees a cost-cap on the project and ensures that PSO customers will benefit from energy sales from the projects to other grid users.

“Responding to customer needs for reliable, affordable and clean electric power generation, PSO will now make a new major infrastructure investment in Oklahoma,” Anthony said.

Jack Money

Jack Money has worked for The Oklahoman for more than 20 years. During that time, he has worked for the paper’s city, state, metro and business news desks, including serving for a while as an assistant city editor. Money has won state and regional... Read more ›