Nicholas Akins, AEP president and CEO, said Turk will provide “reliable, affordable power for our customers and project partners and will provide significant benefits for the area’s economy.” The baseload plant is located on about 3,000 acres between Fulton and McNab.

Construction got under way in November 2008, providing 2,200 construction jobs at peak employment in May 2011. The plant will have nearly 110 permanent employees, representing an annual payroll of $9 million.

In Arkansas, the plant will serve Swepco’s wholesale customers—the cities of Hope, Bentonville and Prescott—as well as Arkansas Electric Cooperative members, in southwestern Arkansas. Bentonville is the U.S. headquarters of Wal-Mart, the largest corporation in the country.

Turk is expected to burn about 2.5 million tons of low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal annually.

Several environmental groups fought the project for years, both in legal and regulatory venues. But an agreement in December 2011 formally ended their opposition to the project, allowing Swepco to complete construction.

Under the deal, AEP agreed to phase out 528-mw Unit 2 at its Welsh coal plant in Texas, with a firm retirement deadline of 2016. AEP also agreed not to build any additional generation at the Turk site or construct any new coal-burning units at any location in Arkansas within 30 miles of Turk as long as the plant operates.

The plant is named for John W. Turk Jr., who was president and CEO of Swepco from 1983-1988.