Xcel’s Colorado unit files latest resource plan with the state

Xcel Energy’s Public Service Co. of Colorado unit is proposing to add significant new cost-effective solar and wind energy resources to meet the future electricity needs of Colorado, according to a report filed Sept 10 with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

If the plan is approved, Xcel (NYSE: XEL) said it would reduce CO2 emissions by more than one-third from 2005 levels. In its report, the company says this plan makes great sense for customers and the environment.

“This plan demonstrates the right way to advance clean energy because it keeps the focus on customer costs,” said Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. “We have a clear track record of implementing clean energy projects that create significant customer value and keep rates affordable. This plan continues that effort, and we are positioned to take advantage of very favorable pricing for some great projects.”

The company’s recommendations include 170 MW of new, utility-scale Colorado solar power, 450 MW of new Colorado wind power and 317 MW of “low cost” natural gas generation that would provide operational flexibility to reliably integrate renewable resources into the electric supply mix.

“This request will add significant amounts of wind and solar energy to the system at the right price, and it makes good sense for our customers and the environment,” said David Eves, president and CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado. “For the first time ever, we are adding cost competitive utility scale solar to the system. The 170 megawatts we recommend would triple Xcel Energy’s current utility scale solar in Colorado and it equates to all of the customer-sited solar in the state of Colorado, at about one half of the cost.”

The Xcel Energy proposal includes:

  • The addition of 450 MW of Colorado wind generation is an adjustment from the 550 MW the company initially recommended this summer after its early wind request for proposals (RFP). This additional wind would bring the installed capacity on the company’s system in Colorado to 2,650 MW;
  • The addition of 170 MW of utility-scale solar would use single axis tracking to maximize solar generation during the day. The company currently has about 80 MW of utility-scale solar and 160 MW of customer-sited solar generation;
  • The proposed 317 MW of “low cost” gas generation would come from existing Colorado power plants that previously supplied Xcel Energy, but would do so in the future at reduced prices. This ‘flexible generation’ allows the company to start, bring up and turn down generation on-line in relatively short periods of time as wind and solar generation vary throughout the day.

One coal unit to be shut, another converted to natural gas

The company examined whether to continue operating two older company-owned power plants or to replace them with new generation resources. Xcel recommends:

  • The permanent closure of the 109-MW, coal-fired Unit 4 at the Arapahoe station in Denver at the end of 2013; and
  • The continued operation of Cherokee station’s Unit 4 in Denver as a natural gas facility after 2017 (the plant fuel source will be switched to natural gas from coal by the end of 2017 as part of the state’s Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act Plan).

Xcel Energy’s proposal still must be reviewed by an independent evaluator for the Colorado commission, with the commission scheduled to approve the plan as filed or make amendments to the proposal by Dec. 9, 2013.

Eves said the strong competition between resources and even between different types of resources yields a number of low cost resource combinations that could meet Xcel Energy’s needs by relying on varying amounts of new wind and solar and various natural gas-fired generation resources.

Xcel Energy’s Sept. 10 announcement is in addition to 42.5 MW of on-site solar that the company has proposed through separate proceedings with the CPUC, under the 2014 Renewable Energy Standard Compliance Plan. That proposal recently was sent to an administrative law judge for further regulatory action.

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.