The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Sept. 30 approved a settlement that will allow Xcel Energy‘s (NYSE: XEL) Public Service Co. of Colorado subsidiary to develop, own and operate a 600-MW wind facility located on Colorado’s eastern plains.
The PUC voted to approve the agreement without modification reached between the company and more than a dozen other parties. In addition to PUC staff, the Office of Consumer Counsel and the Colorado Energy Office, other signatories to the settlement included environmental organizations, cooperative electric associations, municipalities, large energy consumers, trade and union groups, and independent power producers.
The proposed Rush Creek Wind Project would be one of Colorado’s largest wind farms, comprised of two generation sites and a 90-mile high-voltage transmission line to tie into Xcel’s electric system. In total, the project would include 300 wind turbines on approximately 116,000 acres in Elbert, Lincoln, Kit Carson and Cheyenne counties.
Construction is expected to begin in 2017 with anticipated commercial operations expected to begin in late 2018.
In approving the settlement, the PUC said it found that the project satisfied the reasonable cost standard in state law that allows utility ownership of up to 25% of the total new renewable energy resources acquired after March 27, 2007.
“I’m very pleased that almost 20 parties could join together and support a comprehensive settlement that significantly increases renewable energy in the state, will be a driver of economic development in rural Colorado, and helps sustain the renewable energy supply chain that has matured in Colorado,” PUC Chairman Joshua Epel said. “I am especially pleased that a high-voltage transmission line that provides access to energy resource zones is part of the settlement.”
The agreement caps the cost of the project at $1.096 billion. It also provides for a sharing of cost savings between customers and the company if capital costs are less than the capped amount. The agreement also allows Xcel to pursue an earlier construction schedule for the proposed Pawnee-Daniels Park Transmission Project to take advantage of federal tax credits and to accommodate the Rush Creek project interconnection.