According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), roughly 36 percent of new generation sources brought online in the U.S. in 2018 were renewables. This marks the first time since 2013 that renewables accounted for a minority of new generation capacity in the U.S. Despite this recent slowdown, renewable energy sources are becoming further integrated into the national energy mix as technology advances and customer demand for clean power increases.
Transmission is important to connecting renewables to the grid. Electric Transmission Texas (ETT), a joint venture between AEP and Berkshire Hathaway Energy, is interconnecting renewable generation in Texas at an impressive rate. For example, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) issued a final order in September 2018 approving the Foard City Wind Project in less than four months. The new 345 kV transmission line in Foard County, Texas, will interconnect the 350 MW Foard City Wind Farm facilities to the grid. The project is expected to be placed in-service in May 2019.
As renewable energy becomes a larger part of AEP’s clean energy future, we asked a sampling of our customers about their preferences. Prior to announcing two new solar projects totaling 400 MW in Ohio, AEP Ohio commissioned a study to better understand customers’ attitudes and expectations for renewable energy. Navigant Consulting found a strong majority of customers believe it is important we make greater use of renewable energy, supporting our IRPs and energy strategy. Our new sustainability goal is to increase regulated renewable energy on our system by approximately 8,000 MW (per our integrated resource plans and pending regulatory approval) by 2030 and continue to expand competitive, contracted renewables. However, AEP needs support from state regulators to be able to invest in clean energy resources within our regulated utilities.
In September 2018, AEP Ohio filed a plan with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to support the development of 400 MW of solar power in the state’s Highland County as part of a 2016 commitment to develop 900 MW of renewable resources in the state. This filing represents the single largest clean energy commitment in Ohio history and would more than double the state’s renewable generation capacity. If approved, the projects would add 4,000 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs, add approximately $24 million in new state tax revenue, and save customers an estimated $200 million over the 20-year life of the project compared with other sources for electricity.
AEP Ohio currently receives renewable generation service from the Wyandot Solar Farm near Upper Sandusky, Ohio; Fowler Ridge in Benton County, Indiana, and Timber Road in Paulding County, Ohio. Wyandot produces 10 MW of energy, and Fowler Ridge and Timber Road each produce about 100 MW.
As technology advances, we envision universal solar or wind projects that incorporate low-cost energy storage to minimize or smooth intermittency on the grid and increase reliability. We are working with some of our large customers on this type of approach because it can provide a dual benefit of clean energy and resilience for the customer and the grid. As we do this, we are protecting the universal access to the grid that we believe all customers deserve.