Minnesota commission approves 750 MW of wind for Xcel

Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL) said that cost savings for customers and lower carbon emissions are among the benefits of a proposal approved Oct. 17 by Minnesota regulators to add 750 MW of wind capacity on Xcel’s Upper Midwest grid.

“Wind energy is a clean, low-cost substitute for natural gas and other fuels right now,” said Dave Sparby, president and CEO of Northern States Power Co.-Minnesota, an Xcel company. “These cost-competitive projects will save customers money by providing a valuable hedge to rising and volatile fuel prices well into the future.”

Four projects – which represent a 42% increase in the company’s wind power capacity in the Upper Midwest – were approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Consideration by the North Dakota Public Service Commission is expected by the end of the year.

“With 1,800 megawatts of wind on our Upper Midwest system, we already are ahead of meeting state renewable energy targets,” Sparby said. “These four projects – which will provide enough power to serve about 200,000 homes – position us to continue to meet those targets while saving customers more than $225 million over the projects’ lives.

Approved by Minnesota regulators were:

  • Courtenay Wind Farm, a 200-MW project near Jamestown, N.D., under a power purchase agreement with Geronimo Energy;
  • Odell Wind Farm, a 200-MW project near Windom, Minn., also under a power purchase agreement with Geronimo Energy;
  • Pleasant Valley, a 200-MW project near Austin, Minn., submitted by RES America Developments. RES would develop the project and transfer ownership to Xcel. The Pleasant Valley project is adjacent to the Grand Meadow wind project, which Xcel owns.
  • Border Winds Project, a 150-MW project located in Rolette County in north central North Dakota, near the Canadian border. RES would also develop the project and transfer ownership to Xcel.

All four projects are scheduled to be in service by the end of 2015.

Systemwide, Xcel lately has committed to 1,900 MW of wind

Combined with proposals in the company’s Colorado and Texas/New Mexico service areas, Xcel this year has proposed adding a total of 1,900 MW of wind resources, a 40% increase in company-wide wind capacity.

For example, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on Oct. 8 approved a request from Xcel’s Public Service Co. of Colorado unit for the addition of 450 MW of wind to its system. This capacity, from unnamed bidders, came out of the utility’s 2013 All Source Solicitation.

“Our system is better today because we continue to sensibly invest in a balanced portfolio of cleaner, modern technologies to meet our customers’ needs,” said Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. “These projects demonstrate that we can achieve both environmental and economic benefits for our customers.”

In January, Congress extended the federal renewable electricity Production Tax Credit to projects that begin significant construction activities by the end of 2013. Xcel said it 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.

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.