Minnesota commission to look at Xcel Energy wind acquisition

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will be looking at its Sept. 4 meeting at the issues around a 750-MW wind energy acquisition program for Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL).

Xcel Energy has petitioned or approval of the acquisition of 600 MW of wind generation capacity and separately for approval of the acquisition of 150 MW of wind generation directly by Xcel, commission staff noted in an Aug. 28 briefing paper.

The issues to be looked at on Sept. 4 include:

  • does the commission find that the 750 MW of wind acquisition proposed by Xcel constitute a changed circumstance under integrated resource plan (IRP) rules;
  • should the commission require that Xcel file a notice of changed circumstances; and
  • should the commission consolidate any or all of these dockets.

On July 16 and Aug. 9, Xcel filed petitions for approval of 600 MW and 150 MW of wind generation, respectively. The Aug. 9 filing indicated that an additional project is still under review. The projects were selected from a Request for Proposals (RFP) for up to 200 MW of wind that Xcel issued in February.

The projects are:

  • Odell, 200 MW, developer Geronimo Energy, power purchase agreement (PPA);
  • Courtenay, 200 MW, Geronimo Energy, PPA;
  • Pleasant Valley, 200 MW, RES Americas, Xcel to buy facility after project developed; and
  • Borders, 150 MW, RES Americas, Xcel to buy after project developed.

Xcel and Geronimo Energy believe the 750 MW of wind is consistent with Xcel’s approved resource plan, and therefore, Xcel does not need to file a notice of changed circumstances (NoCC). The state Department of Commerce, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Ecos Energy LLC recommend the commission require Xcel file an NoCC.

Commission staff believes an NoCC is required because Xcel’s proposed wind additions may influence the proposal selected in the company’s resource acquisition process. Moreover, since Xcel did not include any proposed wind additions in its five-year action plan, the commission did not contemplate resource planning issues associated with additions of this magnitude, such as reliability of service, socioeconomic impacts, and the likely effect on rates and bills.

A group of small wind developers in Aug. 27 comments opposed the Xcel plans. “Many Minnesota farmers and landowners have invested substantial sums into projects based upon Minnesota’s C-BED statutory priority, the Commission’s directive that Xcel acquire 1/3 of its wind resources from C-BED projects, and Xcel’s public commitment to acquire at least 500MW of wind resources by 2010 and 1/3 of its wind resources from CBED projects after that date,” they said. “With the proposed addition of the four non-C-BED projects selected by Xcel in these two dockets, however, the amount of Xcel’s C-BED resources would be approximately just 8%, a far cry from the commitments that Xcel effectively made to local farmers and landowners and the jobs and economic benefits that C-BED projects bring to Minnesota.

The parties filing that Aug. 27 argument are Ecos Energy, Summit Wind LLC, Jeffers South LLC, Hurricane Wind LLC, Garvin Wind LLC, Gadwall Wind LLC, Greenhead Wind LLC, Watonwan Wind LLC and Highwater Wind LLC.

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.