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January 25, 2012

Arkansas Gets a Gust of Wind Energy

Glen Hooks
Beyond Coal organizer Glen Hooks stands with a turbine signed by community members.

Not one month into the new year and we are already enjoying exciting energy developments out of North Carolina, Georgia, and now Arkansas.

Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), a subsidiary of American Electric Power, announced today a power purchasing agreement of more than 400 megawatts of clean, renewable energy from wind farms in surrounding states. That amount of wind will "more than quadruple" SWEPCO's wind energy portfolio, boost the region's wind-energy sector, and make the air healthier for all living downstream.

This gust of wind-energy purchasing by the energy company was the result of a December settlement with the Sierra Club and Audubon. The settlement requires AEP to also retire Welsh 2, a dirty coal plant upwind of Arkansas in northeastern Texas. Together these two pieces will offset pollution from SWEPCO's new coal plant in Arkansas.

"Today, as a result of our recent legal settlement, hundreds of megawatts of clean wind energy will power homes and businesses in our region for the next 20 to 25 years," said Glen Hooks of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "Unlike dirty coal, which pollutes our air, water, and communities, wind power produces zero pollution. And, this wind investment will save customers money because wind's fuel costs are zero."

SWEPCO powers more than a half-million people in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Northeast Texas. Prior to the settlement, SWEPCO's wind capacity totaled 110 megawatts. The utility expects this roughly $8 billion investment in clean energy to lower overall costs to customers by an average of a 0.1 cent per kilowatt-hour over the next ten years.

This is just one more example of a sweeping clean energy trend across the country and reflects what the energy experts are saying: Coal's future is dimming and clean energy is taking its place. People want clean energy. They want healthy air. And over the past three years the clean-energy revolution has been a bright job-creating story as we dig out of a tough economic recession. It's been a great 2012 so far, but we've just gotten started.

-- Photo courtesy Glen Hooks

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