Three things we can learn from Wind Catcher’s demise

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Richard Heap
August 20, 2018
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Three things we can learn from Wind Catcher’s demise

“This is a high-profile project, and one that’s gotten a lot of attention. A lot of people want to see it happen, and I think it would be a good thing for the industry.”

That’s what I told US website Icons of Infrastructure in June for an article about the planned 2GW Wind Catcher project in US state Oklahoma by Invenergy and utility American Electric Power. The first thing to note is that, yes, we’ve gone ‘meta’. I’m quoting myself in one of my own comment pieces. Forgive me that indulgence.

But there’s a good reason for my display of self-gratification. The project would have been good for the industry. At 2GW, it would have been one of the largest single-site wind farms globally, and delivered 350 miles of transmission lines across state lines. It would have been inspirational if the developers had been able to pull it off.

Not everyone was so inspired. Wind Catcher has also provoked anger among people in Oklahoma, Texas and beyond. I know this because my comment in support of the development gained me a crop of indignant missives from Texas, of the ‘I don’t know how things work in your country’ variety.

Complaints against the scheme included how ratepayers would have to shoulder the financial risk for the $4.5bn project in an era of cheap natural gas; fears from land owners that transmission lines would need to be built across their land; and the lack of competitive bidding in the planning process or demonstration of sufficient need.

There was also strong opposition from wealthy oil and gas industrialists, including the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity group, and the Windfall Coalition.

Well, life comes at you fast and, just a month after that initial interview, Wind Catcher was dead. The ambitious and inspiration 2GW development was not to be.

On 26th July, the Texas Public Utility Commission unanimously rejected the project because it said it didn’t offer enough benefits for ratepayers. This prompted AEP to say one day later that it was cancelling the project as a result of the Texas decision. AEP was always going to be racing to secure all of the necessary permits so that it could finish the scheme in late 2020 and qualify for the full production tax credit.

In my view, there are three things we can learn from Wind Catcher.

The first is the often-insoluble problem of transmission. This is another reminder that developers will always face hostility when they want to build vast transmission lines across state borders and on the land of numerous landowners. It’s bloody tough to build these schemes and it only takes a handful of objectors to delay the project for so long that the developer either gives up, or that it is no longer financially viable.

It is also a reminder that the model of huge centralised generation projects pushing electricity out to surrounding areas is not appropriate for a flexible and renewables-focused system. This is a reminder why the industry should double-down on finding solutions to electricity grid problems that minimise battles with landowners.

The second learning point relates to wider concerns about the project. In February, Oklahoma judge Mary Candler advised against awarding support for the scheme as the lack of competitive bids was a serious problem. Invenergy and AEP pushed back saying that there wasn’t time to go through the process and gain the full production tax credit. However, Candler’s comments resonated, and it will always be tougher for developers when local communities feel wind farms are being foisted upon them.

And the third is the increasing scrutiny of wind developers. It has been great to see the cost of wind energy fall in recent years, but this means that projects will come up against more scrutiny from regulators on how they will affect consumer bills. This will put more pressure on developers to prove the economics for their scheme, in an era of low natural gas prices and unpredictable energy price changes in future.

Wind Catcher could have shown developers how to overcome all of these problems. It could have been exceptional, but was scuppered by issues that are all too familiar.

“This is a high-profile project, and one that’s gotten a lot of attention. A lot of people want to see it happen, and I think it would be a good thing for the industry.”

That’s what I told US website Icons of Infrastructure in June for an article about the planned 2GW Wind Catcher project in US state Oklahoma by Invenergy and utility American Electric Power. The first thing to note is that, yes, we’ve gone ‘meta’. I’m quoting myself in one of my own comment pieces. Forgive me that indulgence.

But there’s a good reason for my display of self-gratification. The project would have been good for the industry. At 2GW, it would have been one of the largest single-site wind farms globally, and delivered 350 miles of transmission lines across state lines. It would have been inspirational if the developers had been able to pull it off.

Not everyone was so inspired. Wind Catcher has also provoked anger among people in Oklahoma, Texas and beyond. I know this because my comment in support of the development gained me a crop of indignant missives from Texas, of the ‘I don’t know how things work in your country’ variety.

Complaints against the scheme included how ratepayers would have to shoulder the financial risk for the $4.5bn project in an era of cheap natural gas; fears from land owners that transmission lines would need to be built across their land; and the lack of competitive bidding in the planning process or demonstration of sufficient need.

There was also strong opposition from wealthy oil and gas industrialists, including the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity group, and the Windfall Coalition.

Well, life comes at you fast and, just a month after that initial interview, Wind Catcher was dead. The ambitious and inspiration 2GW development was not to be.

On 26th July, the Texas Public Utility Commission unanimously rejected the project because it said it didn’t offer enough benefits for ratepayers. This prompted AEP to say one day later that it was cancelling the project as a result of the Texas decision. AEP was always going to be racing to secure all of the necessary permits so that it could finish the scheme in late 2020 and qualify for the full production tax credit.

In my view, there are three things we can learn from Wind Catcher.

The first is the often-insoluble problem of transmission. This is another reminder that developers will always face hostility when they want to build vast transmission lines across state borders and on the land of numerous landowners. It’s bloody tough to build these schemes and it only takes a handful of objectors to delay the project for so long that the developer either gives up, or that it is no longer financially viable.

It is also a reminder that the model of huge centralised generation projects pushing electricity out to surrounding areas is not appropriate for a flexible and renewables-focused system. This is a reminder why the industry should double-down on finding solutions to electricity grid problems that minimise battles with landowners.

The second learning point relates to wider concerns about the project. In February, Oklahoma judge Mary Candler advised against awarding support for the scheme as the lack of competitive bids was a serious problem. Invenergy and AEP pushed back saying that there wasn’t time to go through the process and gain the full production tax credit. However, Candler’s comments resonated, and it will always be tougher for developers when local communities feel wind farms are being foisted upon them.

And the third is the increasing scrutiny of wind developers. It has been great to see the cost of wind energy fall in recent years, but this means that projects will come up against more scrutiny from regulators on how they will affect consumer bills. This will put more pressure on developers to prove the economics for their scheme, in an era of low natural gas prices and unpredictable energy price changes in future.

Wind Catcher could have shown developers how to overcome all of these problems. It could have been exceptional, but was scuppered by issues that are all too familiar.

“This is a high-profile project, and one that’s gotten a lot of attention. A lot of people want to see it happen, and I think it would be a good thing for the industry.”

That’s what I told US website Icons of Infrastructure in June for an article about the planned 2GW Wind Catcher project in US state Oklahoma by Invenergy and utility American Electric Power. The first thing to note is that, yes, we’ve gone ‘meta’. I’m quoting myself in one of my own comment pieces. Forgive me that indulgence.

But there’s a good reason for my display of self-gratification. The project would have been good for the industry. At 2GW, it would have been one of the largest single-site wind farms globally, and delivered 350 miles of transmission lines across state lines. It would have been inspirational if the developers had been able to pull it off.

Not everyone was so inspired. Wind Catcher has also provoked anger among people in Oklahoma, Texas and beyond. I know this because my comment in support of the development gained me a crop of indignant missives from Texas, of the ‘I don’t know how things work in your country’ variety.

Complaints against the scheme included how ratepayers would have to shoulder the financial risk for the $4.5bn project in an era of cheap natural gas; fears from land owners that transmission lines would need to be built across their land; and the lack of competitive bidding in the planning process or demonstration of sufficient need.

There was also strong opposition from wealthy oil and gas industrialists, including the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity group, and the Windfall Coalition.

Well, life comes at you fast and, just a month after that initial interview, Wind Catcher was dead. The ambitious and inspiration 2GW development was not to be.

On 26th July, the Texas Public Utility Commission unanimously rejected the project because it said it didn’t offer enough benefits for ratepayers. This prompted AEP to say one day later that it was cancelling the project as a result of the Texas decision. AEP was always going to be racing to secure all of the necessary permits so that it could finish the scheme in late 2020 and qualify for the full production tax credit.

In my view, there are three things we can learn from Wind Catcher.

The first is the often-insoluble problem of transmission. This is another reminder that developers will always face hostility when they want to build vast transmission lines across state borders and on the land of numerous landowners. It’s bloody tough to build these schemes and it only takes a handful of objectors to delay the project for so long that the developer either gives up, or that it is no longer financially viable.

It is also a reminder that the model of huge centralised generation projects pushing electricity out to surrounding areas is not appropriate for a flexible and renewables-focused system. This is a reminder why the industry should double-down on finding solutions to electricity grid problems that minimise battles with landowners.

The second learning point relates to wider concerns about the project. In February, Oklahoma judge Mary Candler advised against awarding support for the scheme as the lack of competitive bids was a serious problem. Invenergy and AEP pushed back saying that there wasn’t time to go through the process and gain the full production tax credit. However, Candler’s comments resonated, and it will always be tougher for developers when local communities feel wind farms are being foisted upon them.

And the third is the increasing scrutiny of wind developers. It has been great to see the cost of wind energy fall in recent years, but this means that projects will come up against more scrutiny from regulators on how they will affect consumer bills. This will put more pressure on developers to prove the economics for their scheme, in an era of low natural gas prices and unpredictable energy price changes in future.

Wind Catcher could have shown developers how to overcome all of these problems. It could have been exceptional, but was scuppered by issues that are all too familiar.

“This is a high-profile project, and one that’s gotten a lot of attention. A lot of people want to see it happen, and I think it would be a good thing for the industry.”

That’s what I told US website Icons of Infrastructure in June for an article about the planned 2GW Wind Catcher project in US state Oklahoma by Invenergy and utility American Electric Power. The first thing to note is that, yes, we’ve gone ‘meta’. I’m quoting myself in one of my own comment pieces. Forgive me that indulgence.

But there’s a good reason for my display of self-gratification. The project would have been good for the industry. At 2GW, it would have been one of the largest single-site wind farms globally, and delivered 350 miles of transmission lines across state lines. It would have been inspirational if the developers had been able to pull it off.

Not everyone was so inspired. Wind Catcher has also provoked anger among people in Oklahoma, Texas and beyond. I know this because my comment in support of the development gained me a crop of indignant missives from Texas, of the ‘I don’t know how things work in your country’ variety.

Complaints against the scheme included how ratepayers would have to shoulder the financial risk for the $4.5bn project in an era of cheap natural gas; fears from land owners that transmission lines would need to be built across their land; and the lack of competitive bidding in the planning process or demonstration of sufficient need.

There was also strong opposition from wealthy oil and gas industrialists, including the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity group, and the Windfall Coalition.

Well, life comes at you fast and, just a month after that initial interview, Wind Catcher was dead. The ambitious and inspiration 2GW development was not to be.

On 26th July, the Texas Public Utility Commission unanimously rejected the project because it said it didn’t offer enough benefits for ratepayers. This prompted AEP to say one day later that it was cancelling the project as a result of the Texas decision. AEP was always going to be racing to secure all of the necessary permits so that it could finish the scheme in late 2020 and qualify for the full production tax credit.

In my view, there are three things we can learn from Wind Catcher.

The first is the often-insoluble problem of transmission. This is another reminder that developers will always face hostility when they want to build vast transmission lines across state borders and on the land of numerous landowners. It’s bloody tough to build these schemes and it only takes a handful of objectors to delay the project for so long that the developer either gives up, or that it is no longer financially viable.

It is also a reminder that the model of huge centralised generation projects pushing electricity out to surrounding areas is not appropriate for a flexible and renewables-focused system. This is a reminder why the industry should double-down on finding solutions to electricity grid problems that minimise battles with landowners.

The second learning point relates to wider concerns about the project. In February, Oklahoma judge Mary Candler advised against awarding support for the scheme as the lack of competitive bids was a serious problem. Invenergy and AEP pushed back saying that there wasn’t time to go through the process and gain the full production tax credit. However, Candler’s comments resonated, and it will always be tougher for developers when local communities feel wind farms are being foisted upon them.

And the third is the increasing scrutiny of wind developers. It has been great to see the cost of wind energy fall in recent years, but this means that projects will come up against more scrutiny from regulators on how they will affect consumer bills. This will put more pressure on developers to prove the economics for their scheme, in an era of low natural gas prices and unpredictable energy price changes in future.

Wind Catcher could have shown developers how to overcome all of these problems. It could have been exceptional, but was scuppered by issues that are all too familiar.

“This is a high-profile project, and one that’s gotten a lot of attention. A lot of people want to see it happen, and I think it would be a good thing for the industry.”

That’s what I told US website Icons of Infrastructure in June for an article about the planned 2GW Wind Catcher project in US state Oklahoma by Invenergy and utility American Electric Power. The first thing to note is that, yes, we’ve gone ‘meta’. I’m quoting myself in one of my own comment pieces. Forgive me that indulgence.

But there’s a good reason for my display of self-gratification. The project would have been good for the industry. At 2GW, it would have been one of the largest single-site wind farms globally, and delivered 350 miles of transmission lines across state lines. It would have been inspirational if the developers had been able to pull it off.

Not everyone was so inspired. Wind Catcher has also provoked anger among people in Oklahoma, Texas and beyond. I know this because my comment in support of the development gained me a crop of indignant missives from Texas, of the ‘I don’t know how things work in your country’ variety.

Complaints against the scheme included how ratepayers would have to shoulder the financial risk for the $4.5bn project in an era of cheap natural gas; fears from land owners that transmission lines would need to be built across their land; and the lack of competitive bidding in the planning process or demonstration of sufficient need.

There was also strong opposition from wealthy oil and gas industrialists, including the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity group, and the Windfall Coalition.

Well, life comes at you fast and, just a month after that initial interview, Wind Catcher was dead. The ambitious and inspiration 2GW development was not to be.

On 26th July, the Texas Public Utility Commission unanimously rejected the project because it said it didn’t offer enough benefits for ratepayers. This prompted AEP to say one day later that it was cancelling the project as a result of the Texas decision. AEP was always going to be racing to secure all of the necessary permits so that it could finish the scheme in late 2020 and qualify for the full production tax credit.

In my view, there are three things we can learn from Wind Catcher.

The first is the often-insoluble problem of transmission. This is another reminder that developers will always face hostility when they want to build vast transmission lines across state borders and on the land of numerous landowners. It’s bloody tough to build these schemes and it only takes a handful of objectors to delay the project for so long that the developer either gives up, or that it is no longer financially viable.

It is also a reminder that the model of huge centralised generation projects pushing electricity out to surrounding areas is not appropriate for a flexible and renewables-focused system. This is a reminder why the industry should double-down on finding solutions to electricity grid problems that minimise battles with landowners.

The second learning point relates to wider concerns about the project. In February, Oklahoma judge Mary Candler advised against awarding support for the scheme as the lack of competitive bids was a serious problem. Invenergy and AEP pushed back saying that there wasn’t time to go through the process and gain the full production tax credit. However, Candler’s comments resonated, and it will always be tougher for developers when local communities feel wind farms are being foisted upon them.

And the third is the increasing scrutiny of wind developers. It has been great to see the cost of wind energy fall in recent years, but this means that projects will come up against more scrutiny from regulators on how they will affect consumer bills. This will put more pressure on developers to prove the economics for their scheme, in an era of low natural gas prices and unpredictable energy price changes in future.

Wind Catcher could have shown developers how to overcome all of these problems. It could have been exceptional, but was scuppered by issues that are all too familiar.

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Become a member of the 6,500-strong A Word About Wind community today, and gain access to our premium content, exclusive lead generation and investment opportunities.