Alabama Power among leaders in SE in wind power

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama Power's agreements to purchase wind-generated power put it among the leading investor-owned utilities in the Southeast to pursue the renewable source, a national organization said.

Alabama Power has approval from the state Public Service Commission to purchase up to 404 megawatts of electricity from Buffalo Dunes Wind Project and Chisholm View Wind Project in Oklahoma and Kansas.

Alabama Power spokesman Ike Pigott said 404 megawatts is slightly less than one-fourth of the output of the utility's Farley Nuclear Plant near Dothan and a little less than the combined capacity of Alabama Power's four generating dams on the Tallapoosa River. It amounts to more than 3 percent of energy used by Alabama Power customers annually.

Ellen Carey, spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association in Washington, said the other major investor-owned utility in the Southeast that has pursued power from wind projects is Southwestern Electric Power Co. in Louisiana. It has signed long-term agreements for 469 megawatts from three projects in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

"Both of these contracts _ Alabama Power and SWEPCO _ are significant because they show wind can deliver affordable power to every region of America and allow consumers in the Southeast to benefit from wind," she said Friday.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, the federal utility that serves parts of seven states including Alabama, has purchase agreements for 1,515 megawatts of wind-generated power, spokesman Travis Brickey said Monday. TVA also operates its own wind turbines on Buffalo Mountain, near Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Alabama's utility regulatory board, the Public Service Commission, approved Alabama Power's 20-year agreements with Buffalo Dunes this month and Chisholm View in September 2011.

Chisholm View Wind Project near Enid, Okla., is supposed to begin operation in December. The Buffalo Dunes Wind Project near Garden City, Kan., is set to open in 2014. Both are being developed by TradeWind Energy of Lenexa, Kan.

The PSC has no requirements for electric utilities to pursue wind-generated power. In approving one of the agreements last month, the PSC said the wind-generated power must not cost more than the electricity that Alabama Power generates itself. John Kelley Alabama Power's resource planning director, said the contracts should provide net savings to Alabama Power customers.

He said Alabama Power can use the renewable energy credits that come with the projects or sell those credits to others.

"These two agreements represent a win-win for the company and the people we serve," he said.