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Appalachian Power hopes to buy 2 wind power facilities

Appalachian Power hopes to buy 2 wind power facilities

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Appalachian Power Co. announced Wednesday that it hopes to acquire two wind power projects — one in Ohio and one in West Virginia — to add more renewable energy sources to the electric utility’s portfolio.

If regulators approve the purchases, these two wind farms will be the first two directly owned and operated by Appalachian, which has long relied on coal for the bulk of its power generation.

The 175-megawatt Hardin Wind Facility will be in Hardin County, Ohio, and the 50-megawatt Beech Ridge II Wind Facility will be in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Both are being developed by Invenergy LLC.

For comparison, the Rocky Forge Wind farm in Botetourt County will have a capacity of 80 megawatts.

In a news release, Chris Beam, president and chief operating officer of Appalachian Power, said acquiring the two wind facilities will help continue the utility’s transition to “an energy company of the future” and a more diversified portfolio of generation sources.

Beam said direct ownership and operation would give Appalachian employees “new experiences in the planning, production and delivery of power from diverse generating assets.”

Appalachian currently has a total of 375 megawatts of wind generation and anticipates another 120 megawatts coming online next year.

Adding the two wind farms Appalachian hopes to acquire ultimately would yield a total of more than 1,000 megawatts of wind and hydro-electric generation — enough electricity to power more than 230,000 homes, the utility said.

Appalachian, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, has about 1 million customers in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee.

The utility said the declining costs of wind power and the extension of the federal production tax credit make purchasing the two wind farms beneficial for customers.

On Wednesday, Appalachian filed for regulatory approval of the acquisition with the Virginia State Corporation Commission and the Public Service Commission of West Virginia. John Shepelwich, a spokesman for Appalachian, said the company needs approval from both states even though neither of the wind farms is in Virginia. The SCC will examine whether the costs of the purchases are reasonable and establish how the costs would be recovered from customers, he said.

Shepelwich said the proposed purchase prices are currently confidential.

“Costs will be available to the public later, following regulatory approvals to move ahead,” he said.

Both wind facilities are due to come online in 2019, he said.

In January, Appalachian issued requests for proposals for projects that would add utility-scale solar energy to the utility’s portfolio. The projects would provide up to 25 megawatts of solar generation from comparatively large installations of ground-mounted photovoltaics.

“We received a number of good, workable proposals that would meet our cost and location expectations — somewhere within our Virginia/West Virginia territory — and we are working out details on those proposals now,” Shepelwich said.

Appalachian currently relies on coal plants to generate about 61 percent of its electricity.

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