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AEP ramps up aggressive US wind acquisition drive

Giant utility holding company is paying $551m for facility stakes in seven states, as it rebounds from the high-profile collapse of its 2GW Wind Catcher project last year

American Electric Power (AEP) is paying $551m in cash to acquire full or partial interests in 724MW of US wind projects from Sempra Energy, continuing an aggressive drive to add capacity since the spectacular collapse last year of its 2GW Wind Catcher project.

The deal, expected to close next quarter, includes Sempra’s 100% stake in the 100MW Apple Blossom wind project in Michigan and 78MW Black Oak Getty facility in Minnesota.

The remaining 546MW comprises projects that Sempra jointly owns with BP Wind Energy: Auwahi Wind in Hawaii, Ridge 2 Wind in Kansas, Mehoopany Wind in Pennsylvania, Cedar Creek 2 Wind in Colorado and Fowler Ridge 2 Wind in Indiana.

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Most of the projects are in states with solid economies with relatively strong electric power demand growth.The companies did not say if all those projects had off-take under long-term contract.

AEP, among the country’s largest utility holding companies, will also acquire all Sempra wind projects currently in development. None of them were under construction or in advanced development in fourth quarter last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group.

Sempra had earlier sold its US solar PV and natural gas storage assets to focus on growth opportunities at several utilities led by San Diego Gas and Electric in California.

For its part, AEP, based in Columbus, Ohio, is making good on its pledge to become a leading player in wind and renewables more broadly among the country’s investor-owned utilities.

In January, AEP requested proposals for 1.2GW of wind capacity for its Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) utility – among the biggest seen in the US wind market.

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Last July, it failed to advance its proposed 800-turbine, $4.5bn Wind Catcher Energy Connection project in Oklahoma – the largest for a single site in the western hemisphere.

AEP pulled the plug after recognizing it could not obtain all required regulatory approvals in Texas and Oklahoma by 31 August, its self-imposed deadline that would have given it time to qualify the project for federal tax credits at full value.

Wind Catcher would have supplied electric power to SWEPCO customers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, and those at sister utility Public Service Company of Oklahoma.

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