Xcel Energy heralds planned 30% wind power expansion

Saying that it is already the nation’s No. 1 wind energy provider, Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) said July 30 that it is proposing to grow its wind generation 30% thanks to competitive prices and the federal production tax credit (PTC).

In recent weeks, various Xcel Energy electric utilities have announced plans to seek approval of new wind power in their service areas.

On July 30 the corporate parent said that its subsidiaries are proposing to purchase at least 1,500 MW of wind resources, a 30% increase in overall wind capacity.

The wind power expansion, along with previous conservation, renewable energy and power plant improvements, also puts Xcel Energy on track to reduce its carbon emissions by 28 million tons, or more than 31% by 2020. That would be significant in light of President Obama’s plan to slash utility CO2 emissions well below 2005 levels.

“Wind energy is a valuable, low-cost substitute for natural gas and other fuels right now,” said Xcel Energy Chairman, President and CEO Ben Fowke. “These projects will lower customer costs by at least $800 million over their lives and will provide a valuable hedge to rising and volatile fuel prices for well into the future.”

If the projects are approved, the company expects that more than 20% of its total energy mix will be supplied by wind.

If approved by regulators, construction on the projects will begin immediately in order to qualify for the federal renewable energy tax credits. All projects are scheduled to be in service by the beginning of 2016.

Xcel Energy is seeking approval of the following projects from state regulators throughout its service territories:

•Upper Midwest: Three 200-MW projects in Minnesota and North Dakota, increasing the total to 2,400 MW. The additions will save Upper Midwest customers more than $180m in fuel costs over 20 years.

•Texas/New Mexico: Three projects totaling almost 700 MW located in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, increasing the total to more than 2,200 MW. The additions will save Texas-New Mexico customers up to $590m in fuel costs over 20 years.

•Colorado: One project totaling approximately 200 MW, increasing the total to nearly 2,400 MW. The addition will save Colorado customers more than $142m in fuel costs over 20 years. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission will decide this fall on whether to approve another 350 megawatts of wind power.

Late last year Congress extended the PTC to projects that begin significant construction activities by the end of 2013. Xcel Energy supported the PTC extension and also supports the Consumer Renewable Credit, a proposed tax credit that would provide low-cost federal support of continued, cost-effective wind development such as the projects proposed in today’s filing.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.