Minnesota PUC takes comment on Xcel’s 600 MW of wind

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on July 25 went out for comment on a plan by Northern States Power d/b/a Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL), to acquire 600 MW of wind generation.

The initial comment period runs until Aug. 8, with reply comments due by Aug. 16. The topics open for comment include:

  • Should Xcel be required to file a change in circumstances notification in a resource planning case?
  • Is Xcel’s proposal to enter into 600 MW of wind contracts consistent with the record and commission decisions in its latest Integrated Resource Plan?
  • Is Xcel required to petition the commission for eligibility of cost recovery prior to requesting cost recovery for some or all of the three proposed wind contracts?
  • Is the proposed Odell Wind Project exempt from the requirement to file a Certificate of Need?
  • Does the acquisition of the Pleasant Valley Project require commission approval?

On July 16, Xcel Energy filed a petition with the commission for the approval of 600 MW of wind generation. Two are proposed contracts with Geronimo Energy to purchase the electric energy from the Odell Wind Farm to be located near Mountain Lake, Minn., and the Courtenay Wind Farm to be located near Jamestown, N.D. Xcel also proposed to enter into a contract with RES Americas to develop the Pleasant Valley Wind Farm near Xcel’s existing Grand Meadow Wind Farm in southeastern Minnesota. Once the development of the Pleasant Valley Wind Farm is complete, Xcel proposed that RES Americas would transfer the ownership of the plant to Xcel.

“Although we had indicated a target acquisition of 200 MW, we ultimately selected three projects totaling 600 MW from the competitive bidding,” said Xcel’s July 16 application for this approval. “Our decision to pursue this much additional wind generation was based on the fact that: (1) we need significant wind resources for RES compliance; (2) the pricing is historically low and therefore, very attractive; and (3) our analysis indicated that the addition of these resources would provide both quantitative and qualitative benefits to our customers. Further, the size of our acquisition is consistent with our commitment in our most recent Resource Plan to pursue opportunities for well-priced wind resources.”

Odell: The Odell project will consist of up to 124 wind turbines and associated infrastructure. It will interconnect at a new 345/115 kV substation on the Lakefield Generation–Fieldon segment of Xcel’s Lakefield Junction-Wilmarth 345 kV transmission line. The terms of the Odell power purchase agreement (PPA) are similar to those negotiated with Geronimo for the Prairie Rose PPA that the commission approved in December 2011. The bulk of construction on Odell is expected to begin in the spring of 2014, with a minimal construction start late this year. Under terms of the agreement, commercial operation shall occur no sooner than Nov. 30, 2014, and no later than Dec. 31, 2015. This schedule is designed such that the project will qualify for the federal production tax credit (PTC), which will be used by Geronimo to offset its cost of construction and requires a construction start by the end of this year.

Courtenay: The Courtenay project will consist of up to 124 wind turbines and will interconnect to the Otter Tail Power 345/115 kV substation located north of Jamestown, N.D. The terms of the Courtenay PPA are similar to those we negotiated with Geronimo for the Prairie Rose PPA. The bulk of construction of the Courtenay project is expected to begin in the spring of 2014, with some construction in 2013. Under terms of the agreement, commercial operation shall occur no sooner than Nov. 30, 2014, and no later than Sept. 30, 2015.

Pleasant Valley: The Pleasant Valley project is a 200-MW wind facility that will be located near Austin, Minn., on 52,000 acres of land in Mower and Dodge counties. The number of turbines is redacted from the July 16 application. The Pleasant Valley project will interconnect to Great River Energy’s 345/161 kV Pleasant Valley substation.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.