AEP Receives Enough Approvals To Move Forward With 1,485-Megawatt North Central Wind Projects

American Electric Power Company Inc. (AEP)  Press Release  oilandgas360.com

 COLUMBUS, Ohio, May 27, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) has received approvals to enable the company to acquire the entire planned 1,485 megawatts (MW) of wind generation in Oklahoma. AEP will invest approximately $2 billion in this new renewable energy to serve its Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) and Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) customers.

The Louisiana Public Service Commission today approved a settlement agreement that authorizes SWEPCO to add 810 MW of wind energy to serve its customers. The Commission approved an option that could increase Louisiana's allocation to an estimated 464 MW from the original 268 MW, if Texas does not also approve the SWEPCO proposal. The Arkansas Public Service Commission also accepted an option to increase its allocation when it approved the project earlier this month. The project remains under regulatory review in Texas, and SWEPCO will continue to seek that approval to allocate some of this renewable energy to benefit its customers in Texas.

PSO received final Oklahoma Corporation Commission approval Feb. 20, 2020, of a settlement agreement to acquire 675 MW of the project. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) also has approved the acquisition.

"Today's decision by the Louisiana Public Service Commission enables us to move forward with the North Central wind projects at full scale and invest in low-cost wind energy to benefit our customers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma," said Nicholas K. Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer. "As AEP continues to add new clean energy to our generation portfolio, this investment is expected to save our customers approximately $3 billion over the next 30 years while supporting economic development in our communities. We will continue to seek approval to provide a share of this renewable energy to our SWEPCO customers in Texas, as we believe the projects offer significant benefits to customers across our SWEPCO footprint."

North Central includes three wind generation facilities located in north central Oklahoma. AEP's SWEPCO and PSO operating units announced July 15, 2019, that they would seek regulatory approvals to purchase the three wind projects. One project is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. The other two projects will be completed by the end of 2021.

AEP continues to make significant investments in renewable energy to serve its customers. The company's regulated integrated resource plans call for the addition of more than 8,000 MW of wind and solar and 1,600 MW of natural gas between 2020 and 2030.

American Electric Power, based in Columbus, Ohio, is focused on building a smarter energy infrastructure and delivering new technologies and custom energy solutions to our customers. AEP's approximately 17,400 employees operate and maintain the nation's largest electricity transmission system and more than 221,000 miles of distribution lines to efficiently deliver safe, reliable power to nearly 5.5 million regulated customers in 11 states. AEP also is one of the nation's largest electricity producers with approximately 31,000 megawatts of diverse generating capacity, including more than 5,200 megawatts of renewable energy. AEP's family of companies includes utilities AEP Ohio, AEP Texas, Appalachian Power (in Virginia and West Virginia), AEP Appalachian Power (in Tennessee), Indiana Michigan Power, Kentucky Power, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, and Southwestern Electric Power Company (in Arkansas, Louisiana, east Texas and the Texas Panhandle). AEP also owns AEP Energy, AEP Energy Partners, AEP OnSite Partners, and AEP Renewables, which provide innovative competitive energy solutions nationwide. For more information, visit aep.com.

 

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in a related story, approval for a giant wind farm in one of the great lakes has been approved, but it can only operate during daylightt hours in order to protect birds from being killed from flying into the windmills at night.

Yeah, I read that too.  Will be interesting to see how it dollars out.  Maybe battery back up or other storage technology will be added. 

This press release shows AEP's commitment to renewables.  The Wind Catcher project, an Oklahoma wind farm, was approved by OK, AR and LA but rejected by the TX PSC.  The O&G industry ran an "astro-turf" PR campaign against the project hiding behind a non-profit that was posing as a protector of the public good.  It was a disappointment but not a total surprise that TX failed to approve.  Kudos to AEP, partners, PSCs in LA, OK and AR  for the work around and getting the project approved.

It will be interesting to see how they turn the wind "off" at night.

In the GOM we can not even shoot seismic data without a "certified mammel observer" on board.  If a "mammel" gets near the shoot, then we are shut down.  So when you think of wind being "green" remember the birds.  Also remember all of the hydrocarbons that went into the fabrication, construction, installation and operation of the blades.  At the end of the day, it is not so green.  But you will not hear that on CNN.  

Jay

Speaking of the turbine blades, I read the other day about the issues of handling "old" blades. There is no recycling option for these items. They just get cut up into smaller pieces and dumped into landfills.

Side note - out in West Texas, some of the wind turbine "farms" look like a slaughter zone under the units with all the bird carcasses.

Looks like it is you and me Rock Man left to defend/care/inform regarding geology. Too bad no one on this site cares about that.  It has turned into an environmental post/click site.  One of the reasons I rarely post.  I actually visited one of the windfarms in Odessa.  Disgusting is putting it mild.  You think you need a mask for Costco, try visiting that site.  But once again, that get lost in the narrative.    

Jay

Thanks for the heads up, Jay.  Sounds like an interesting job.  For interested members, here is some additional information.

About MPSC: What We Do

​MPSC furthers conservation of protected species through sound research, mitigation, and training.  MPSC offers Protected Species Observer training that is approved by the federal agencies Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement in coordination with National Marine Fisheries Service to provide PSO certification. The training is given by Angela Bostwick, a BOEM/BSEE/NMFS-approved instructor for the course.  

 

Working as a PSO and Obtaining Certification

​Protected Species Observers (PSOs), also known as Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs), monitor mainly for marine mammals and sea turtles. PSOs complete certain reports on protected species activity and industry operations that are required by federal agencies such as NMFS, BOEM, and BSEE. PSOs also advise regarding protected species in the "exclusion zone," and on the measures required to reduce impacts to the animals.

 

To work as a Protected Species Observer on seismic operations in the Gulf of Mexico, you must undergo training which meets the standards set forth in federal regulations.  We provide this accredited training, and upon successful completion of this course, students will receive their PSO certification.  PSO names will also be sent to BSEE for inclusion in the list of certified PSOs.  While specific to the Gulf of Mexico, this certification is often required in other parts of the country or world to qualify an individual to work as a PSO.   Often, this is where a specific body of water or country does not have established standard mitigations or PSO training requirements for the activity for which PSOs are needed. In addition, the methods for locating and identifying animals discussed in the training are valuable tools for wildlife observers worldwide.

http://www.protectedspeciesobservers.com/index.html

Speaking of recycling blades.  Article excerpt.  Link to full article at the bottom.

Global Fiberglass Solutions plans to turn retired turbine blades into pellets for use in flooring, furniture and more.

Wind turbine blades are piled up outside a former Maytag plant in central Iowa where a company hopes to help recycle them into a wide range of products.

Global Fiberglass Solutions, based in Washington state, has devised a way to slice up retired wind turbine blades into tiny pellets that can then be molded into products such as boards, furniture and packaging. The company already has a factory in Sweetwater, Texas, and it hopes to be producing pellets in Newton, Iowa, about 30 miles east of Des Moines, by the end of the year.

The Iowa plant has been in the works since 2017, and the company has run into challenges since then. Ronald Albrecht, the company’s vice president of business development, said plans were delayed because of asbestos found in the building. The company also realized it needed more space to accommodate its equipment. Modifications are underway.

Albrecht estimates that the company owns a couple thousand blades, divided between the two locations. The huge blades stacked up next to the Maytag facility are a little concerning to Frank Liebl, executive director of the Newton Development Corp.

“There’s turbines all over the place and we’ve got to do something with them,” he said. While he endorses the “wonderful” concept of recycling turbine blades, Liebl said he’s worried about delays in the project.

“I hope it works,” he said. “We’re just hanging in there day by day, week by week.”

Albrecht said the company is focused on marketing, and has been sending out batches of pellets to distributors so they can share them with potential customers. One challenge is aligning production with demand — figuring out how to increase production as demand increases, Albrecht said.

“We want to make sure we can supply them with a couple years’ worth of material,” Albrecht said. “Otherwise, there’s too much risk involved to change their production lines.”

Wind turbine blades are made of inert and stable materials, largely fiberglass, carbon fibers and balsa wood. They take up space but don’t pose a particular environmental threat when placed in landfills. Still, the industry is trying to move toward greater recyclability, said Greg Alvarez, a spokesperson for the American Wind Energy Association. One manufacturer, Vestas, has announced it wants its turbines to be completely recyclable by 2040.

https://energynews.us/2020/02/20/midwest/wind-turbine-blade-recycle...

Interesting

I can see turbine blade "bone yards" like some apocalyptical movie set!

I see pellets.

I appreciate the concern expressed for the welfare of birds and we should also include bats.  I hope this will allay some of those fears.

6 ways to protect bats and birds from wind turbines

Wind turbines can kill birds and bats, but they don't have to. Here are a few ways to help them coexist.

Wind turbines will likely always pose some degree of risk to wildlife, as do cars, airplanes and many other large, fast-moving machines. But as more wind farms heed ecology and apply better technology, the risk is shrinking enough to unite conservationists and wind-energy advocates against a common foe: climate change. And in a sign of that unity, the U.K.'s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds offered an olive branch in 2016 by building a wind turbine in a field next to its headquarters.

"We can already see the impact that climate change is having on our countryside," the RSPB's Paul Forecast said in a statement when the plan was announced. "It is our responsibility to protect the rest of our environment for future generations. We hope that by installing a wind turbine at our U.K. headquarters, we will demonstrate to others that, with a thorough environmental assessment, the correct planning and location, renewable energy and a healthy, thriving environment can go hand in hand."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new information since it was originally published in October 2014.

***

Wind turbines are an important source of clean, renewable energy. They're one of the fastest-growing power sources in the U.S., outpacing even natural gas. Unfortunately, they also sometimes kill birds and bats.

That may sound like an environmental Catch-22, but it doesn't need to be. From new designs and smarter locations to high-tech tracking systems and ultrasonic "boom boxes," many American wind farms are experimenting with various ways to make their turbines safer for flying wildlife.

Wind turbines were never the top threat for most birds. A study published in the journal Biological Conservation found that U.S. turbines kill 234,000 birds per year on average, while a newer study, published in Energy Science, found that about 150,000 birds are affected by wind turbines in the U.S. per year. By comparison, research suggests up to 1 billion U.S. birds die each year after colliding with windows, and up to 4 billion more are killed by feral cats. Other threats include high-tension wires (174 million birds), pesticides (72 million) and cars (60 million).

And perhaps the No. 1 threat to birds is climate change, which is driven by the very fossil fuels wind turbines are meant to displace. According to a report by the National Audubon Society, two-thirds of America's birds are now threatened with extinction due to climate change, especially Arctic birds, forest birds and waterbirds.

As for bats, wind farms may also pose a different kind of risk. When a bat flies into a patch of air immediately after a blade tip has passed by, the sudden drop in pressure can reportedly rupture its lungs, a condition known as "barotrauma." Research is mixed on this subject, though, with a 2008 study calling barotrauma a "significant cause of bat fatalities" and a 2013 study arguing blade strikes are a more likely culprit. Either way, roughly 600,000 bats die on U.S. wind farms per year.

That's a real problem, but not on the scale of white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease that has spread from one New York cave in 2006 to at least 33 U.S. states and seven Canadian provinces. With a mortality rate as high as 100% and no known cure, it poses an existential threat to some entire bat species, especially if they're already endangered by things like pesticides or habitat loss.

Nonetheless, wind farms still kill too many bats and birds overall. These losses can compound the animals' other woes, and they also undermine the role of wind as an environmentally beneficial power source. On top of directly helping today's birds and bats, solving this could indirectly help everyone on Earth by boosting the case for wind farms versus older energy sources that fuel climate change.

To that end, here are a few ideas that might help wind farms coexist with birds and bats:

1. Safer locations

The simplest way to keep birds and bats away from wind turbines is to not build wind turbines where lots of birds and bats are known to fly. It's not always that simple, though, since many of the open, treeless expanses that attract birds and bats are also prime locations for harvesting wind.

Already-altered habitats like food farms make good turbine sites from a wildlife perspective, according to the American Bird Conservancy, but the main thing to avoid is any habitat deemed an "Important Bird Area." These include places where birds congregate for feeding and breeding, like wetlands and ridge edges, as well as migratory bottlenecks and flight paths used by endangered or declining species.

In the aforementioned Energy Science study, researchers found "no significant impact" from wind turbines as long as they were located 1,600 meters (about 1 mile) away from high-density bird habitats. "We found that there was a negative impact of three birds lost for every turbine within 400 meters of a bird habitat," says study co-author Madhu Khanna, professor of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois, in a statement. "The impact faded away as distance increased."

While more than 60% of all avian deaths at U.S. wind farms are small songbirds, they account for less than 0.02% of their total population, even for the hardest-hit species. Still, although wind turbines may be unlikely to cause population declines for most bird species, the American Wind Wildlife Institute has warned that "as many species decline because of a host of other factors, the potential for biologically significant impacts to some species, such as raptors, may increase." To help, developers can locate turbines away from cliffs and hills where raptors seek updrafts.

Environmental assessments are now a key part of planning new wind farms, often using mist nets, acoustic detectors and other tactics to assess bird and bat activity before deciding on turbine sites.

2. Ultrasonic 'boom boxes'

Birds are mostly visual animals, but since bats use echolocation to navigate, sound might offer a way to repel them from wind farms. That's the idea behind ultrasonic "boom boxes," which can be attached to turbines and emit continuous, high-frequency sounds between 20 and 100 kilohertz.

Bats' sonar is good enough to work around such interference, researchers reported in a 2013 study, but it might still be enough of a hassle to keep them away. "Bats can actually adjust their echolocation under jamming conditions," they wrote. "Bats are, however, likely 'uncomfortable' when broadband ultrasound is present because it forces them to shift their call frequencies to avoid overlap, which in turn will lead to suboptimal use of echolocation or they may not echolocate at all." Between 21% and 51% fewer bats were killed by boom-box turbines than by turbines without the device, the study's authors added, although some technical hurdles remain before the technique has widespread practical value.

"Our findings suggest broadband ultrasound broadcasts may reduce bat fatalities by discouraging bats from approaching sound sources," they wrote. "However, effectiveness of ultrasonic deterrents is limited by distance and area ultrasound can be broadcast, in part due to rapid attenuation in humid conditions."

3. New colors

Most wind turbines are painted white or gray, an attempt to make them as visually inconspicuous as possible. But white paint can indirectly lure birds and bats, researchers found in a 2010 study, by attracting the winged insects they hunt. White and gray turbines were second only to yellow ones in attracting insects, according to the study, including flies, moths, butterflies and beetles.

Purple turned out to be the least attractive color to these insects, raising the possibility that painting wind turbines purple might alleviate some bird and bat fatalities. The researchers stopped short of advocating that, however, noting that other factors — such as heat given off by turbines — could also be encouraging wildlife to fly near the spinning blades.

Even if purple paint isn't practical, another line of research is investigating the use of ultraviolet light to deter birds and bats from turbines. While UV light is invisible to humans, many other species can see it — including bats, which aren't as blind as you might have heard. Still, given the limitations of long-distance vision at night, some researchers think migrating bats don't always see the spinning blades, and mistake the poles of wind turbines for trees. Rather than trying to deter bats at short range, a team of researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Hawaii are studying how dim UV lights on turbines can warn bats about the danger from afar, broadcasting "this is scary" to bats before they get too close.

4. New designs

Beyond new paint and scary lights, tweaking the structure of wind turbines could greatly reduce the risk they pose to birds and bats. Engineers have come up with a wide array of wildlife-friendly designs in recent years, ranging from slight modifications to overhauls that barely resemble a traditional wind turbine.

In the Energy Science study, researchers found that the size of the turbine and the length of the blades can make a substantial difference. Just making the turbines taller and the blades shorter reduces the impact on birds, the study's authors report. In addition to regulating the location of turbines, they suggest, wind-energy policies should promote greater turbine heights and shorter blades to protect birds.

And then there are the more dramatic reinventions. A concept known as Windstalk, for example, doesn't even use spinning blades. Developed by New York design firm Atelier DNA, it's meant to harness wind energy with giant, cattail-like poles that mimic "the wind sways a field of wheat, or reeds in a marsh." Other alternatives include vertical-axis turbines, sail-like wind dams, high-flying energy kites and a helium-filled blimp that would fly 1,000 feet high, placing it above most birds and bats.

5. Radar and GPS

Weather radar often picks up more than weather. In the image above, for example, National Weather Service radar detected a huge crowd of bats flying at sunset over central Texas in June 2009. If wind farms have quick access to high-quality radar images like those, they could shut off their turbines to let flocks fly through.

Identifying animals from radar isn't always easy, especially for small bats and songbirds, but it's getting better. The best use of radar might be prevention, helping us avoid building wind turbines in places where birds and bats tend to congregate, but it can also help existing wind farms make life-saving adjustments. In Texas, some coastal wind farms have used radar for years to protect migrating birds. And there are products available like the MERLIN avian radar system, made by Florida-based DeTect, which scans the skies for 3 to 8 miles around wind-energy sites, both for "pre-construction mortality risk projections and for operational mitigation."

For especially endangered species like California condors, GPS can provide an extra level of protection. Although it wouldn't work for most species, about 230 California condors are outfitted with GPS transmitters that allow nearby wind farms to keep track of their whereabouts.

6. Restraint

Researchers from Oregon State University are developing sensors that can tell when something hits a wind turbine blade, giving operators a chance to prevent more collisions by shutting turbines down. Along with those sensors — which researchers are testing by launching tennis balls at turbine blades — cameras could be mounted on turbines to show operators if birds or bats really are in the area.

Before anything hits the fan, however, wind-farm operators also have other options beyond radar to anticipate the arrival of flying wildlife. Most bat fatalities occur in late summer and early fall, for example, when many species of bats are most active. Bird migrations also tend to follow seasonal patterns, giving wind-farm managers a chance to shut down their turbines before the largest flocks try to fly through.

Bats also typically prefer to fly in weak winds, so leaving turbines dormant at lower wind speeds — known as raising the "cut-in speed" at which they begin generating power — can save lives, too. In one study, published in the journal BioOne Complete, researchers found that leaving turbines idle until winds reach 5.5 meters per second curbed bat deaths by 60%. And another study, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, found that bat mortality was up to 5.4 times higher at wind farms with fully operational turbines than at those with reduced activity. Raising cut-in speeds is more expensive for electric companies, the researchers acknowledge, but the lost power is less than 1% of total annual output — a low price to pay if it can prevent mass wildlife casualties.

"Relatively small changes to wind-turbine operation resulted in nightly reductions in bat mortality, ranging from 44% to 93%, with marginal annual power loss," they wrote. "Our findings suggest that increasing turbine cut-in speeds at wind facilities in areas of conservation concern during times when active bats may be at particular risk from turbines could mitigate this detrimental aspect of wind-energy generation."

AEP CEO: New 1.5GW Wind Plan a ‘Very Different Proposition’ Than Failed Wind Catcher

How AEP’s new deal with Invenergy is designed to avoid Wind Catcher’s regulatory hurdles.

Jeff St. John July 25, 2019 greentechmedia.com

 

This is an excerpt.  The full article may be viewed by clicking the link at the bottom.

 

A plan designed to succeed where Wind Catcher failed

Last week, AEP utilities Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (PSO) and Southwestern Electric Power Co. (Swepco) asked state regulators to approve their selection of Invenergy to develop 1,486 megawatts of wind power across three sites in Oklahoma. The projects, selected through an RFP issued in January, have been given the unmemorable name of "North Central Wind Initiative" — perhaps to avoid association with the Wind Catcher project, AEP’s failed attempt last year to build what would have been the largest wind farm in the Americas. 

Last year’s proposal by Swepco to purchase 70 percent of the 2-gigawatt Wind Catcher project, also to be developed by Invenergy, faced multiple political and regulatory challenges to its $3 billion price tag and its need for a new $1.6 billion transmission line.

In August, Texas regulators rejected the plan, citing concerns about risks to ratepayers. AEP announced it was pulling out of Wind Catcher a day later, saying further delays could jeopardize its ability to fully capture the value of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC),which is set to start declining in 2021 and to disappear completely at the end of 2024. 

The new proposed projects are designed to avoid the problems that snared Wind Catcher, Akins said in Thursday’s conference call. “We learned a lot from the experience of Wind Catcher. And these filings prove that.” 

First, while only 200 megawatts of the projects will be acquired by 2020, in time to capture 100 percent of the PTC, the 80 percent credit that the rest of the project will receive when it’s delivered in 2021 still provides a hefty tax benefit. The credits will amount to approximately $1.4 billion and offset roughly 70 percent of total capital investment in the first 10 years of the project, Akins said. Over its 30-year life, AEP predicts customer benefits of about $3 billion. 

Second, the North Central Wind Initiative is structured to go forward even if it’s denied by utility regulators in some of the states where Swepco and PSO operate, which include Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. 

“We have the ability to take a minimum of 810 megawatts and then provide states the ability to take more megawatts should another state or states reject our applications,” he said — a capability provided by AEP’s massive generation and transmission business. "And we have designed enough flexibility into our applications to move forward under scenarios where only one, two, three or four states approve," he said. 

Third, AEP’s new proposal is smaller than Wind Catcher and has a much lower risk profile for state regulators to consider.

“Because these projects were competitively bid, we recognized the clear breakpoint between the winning three projects, which happened to be Invenergy projects who we had worked with in the past, and others from a pricing perspective,” he said. "We wanted to position the best projects first...so that our commissions could clearly recognize the value for our customers."

If any gaps remain in resource-planning requirements after this process wraps up, the company can always request more bids in the future, he added.

"We went after Wind Catcher because it was a unique opportunity, and we certainly wanted to be able to perform that project," Akins said. But the new plan "is a very different proposition."

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