Public Service Company and Southwestern Electric Power Co. recently announced a $4.5 billion industrial wind facility and power line project called The Wind Catcher Energy Connection. It will be located in the Oklahoma Panhandle and will service a four-state region via a high voltage power line to the Tulsa area. The project is planned for 2,000 Megawatts of production capacity, 70 percent of which will be owned and used by SWEPCO to supply customers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. Oklahomans receive 30 percent of the “benefit” and all of the burden for the 800 new wind turbines and miles and miles of new power lines.
While proponents tout cost savings, we remain concerned about the impact to local and state revenue. Because wind production facilities remain exempt from paying sales taxes, Oklahoma and the counties in which the projects are located, will be unable to collect more than $110 million that would directly support local and state government budgets.
Additionally, while project owners claim reduced rates, taxpayers subsidize these “lower rates” through payment of federal production tax credits which will exceed $2.5 billion dollars during the first 10 years of the project, according to the Chairman and CEO of American Electric Power. The Federal Tax Credits constitute the majority of the proposed “savings” to customers.
Credit is due to Oklahoma legislators for their action in repealing the Zero Emissions Tax Credit, effective July 1, 2017. The Wind Catcher project would have cost the state more than $390 million during its first ten years had the credit remained in place. However, there is still more work to do to ensure wind companies are held to the same standards as other energy producers and corporations operating in Oklahoma.