By MAX GARLAND
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Appalachian Power is continuing its shift toward renewable energy, as the electric utility announced Wednesday it is seeking approval to acquire two wind power facilities under development.
One of these projects, the Beech Ridge II Wind Facility, will be located in Greenbrier County and generate about 50 megawatts of power. The other, Hardin Wind Facility, will be located in Hardin County, Ohio, and generate 175 megawatts of power.
Both wind power facilities are being developed by Invenergy, according to a statement from Appalachian Power. The facilities are expected to be in commercial operation in 2018, according to Invenergy’s website.
Appalachian said it is pursuing the acquisitions because of “the declining cost of wind resources and the extension of the Federal Production Tax Credit.” It is filing for regulatory approval with the West Virginia Public Service Commission and the Virginia State Corporation Commission.
About 61 percent of Appalachian’s electricity comes from coal, while wind and solar make up a total of 5 percent, according to the utility’s most recent estimates. By 2031, Appalachian projects that coal will make up 51 percent of its electricity generation, while wind and solar will total 25 percent.
“We are continuing our transition to an energy company of the future and further diversifying our power generation portfolio. These acquisitions move us in that direction,” Appalachian President Chris Beam said in a news release. “Direct ownership and operation of these facilities will give our employees new experiences in the planning, production and delivery of power from diverse generating assets as Appalachian continues to add renewable resources in the years ahead.”
Appalachian, an American Electric Power subsidiary, serves about 1 million customers in West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia.
Beam told the Gazette-Mail earlier this year that the company is looking toward renewables as big businesses like Amazon and Google look for facilities that can run entirely on renewable energy. He also said “there definitely is some ability to expand wind in West Virginia.”
Appalachian has 375 megawatts of wind generation. An additional 120 megawatts will come online next year from NextEra’s Bluff Point Wind Energy Center, an acquisition approved by the PSC in March. The PSC said “it is just, reasonable, and in the public interest” for Appalachian to enter into the purchase agreement, despite concerns that customers would be responsible for the costs if the wind energy market were to falter.
Greenbrier County already is home to the Beech Ridge Wind Farm in Rupert, which generates 100 megawatts of power and is owned by an Invenergy subsidiary. It began commercial operation in 2010, according to Invenergy’s website.
Invenergy, headquartered in Chicago, develops and operates wind, solar and natural gas projects in the United States and other countries. The company and its affiliates have developed projects that total more than 15,900 megawatts of power, it said in a recent news release. The majority of that power comes from wind farms, with about 10,000 megawatts generated.
Invenergy representatives did not respond to interview requests for this report.
According to a 2014 presentation on the West Virginia Department of Commerce website, the Beech Ridge Wind Farm has 67 turbines and Beech Ridge II would develop up to 33 turbines, all west of the existing turbines.
Greenbrier County Commissioner Lowell Rose said the Beech Ridge Wind Farm, located near Cold Knob Mountain in the western part of the county, has been a net positive to the community. Its location quelled initial concerns that the wind turbines would harm the area’s natural beauty and, consequently, the tourism industry, he added.
“[The wind farm] is back behind the mountains in a private land area,” Rose said. “It’s not really noticeable from major cities like Lewisburg. It actually might have helped tourism a bit, with people visiting it.”
Appalachian receives energy from the Beech Ridge Wind Farm through a purchase agreement. Invenergy also has a 31.5 megawatt energy storage project near the site.
Following a federal court settlement between Invenergy and environmental groups, the Beech Ridge turbines can only operate during times when the endangered Indiana bat and the Virginia big-eared bat are not flying, according to a previous Gazette-Mail report. Additionally, its turbines cannot be operated from April 1 to Nov. 15, the report said.
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