Xcel moves ahead to build 1,550 MW of wind energy in the Midwest

Dive Brief:

  • Xcel Energy wants to add 1,550 MW of wind energy to its system through a mixture of power purchase agreements and utility-owned projects that will increase the company's wind portfolio 60% and provide power for more than 800,000.
  • The investment, which Xcel first announced last year, should help the utility deliver more than 60% carbon-free energy by 2030. A total of seven wind farms will be built in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa.
  • Xcel's plan includes 750 MW of self-build projects proposed last fall, and 800 MW of new proposals, including a 300 MW project in South Dakota to be developed by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, which Argus Leader reports would be the state's largest.

Dive Insight:

Through a mix of power contracts and utility-owned projects, Xcel this week laid out plans to greatly expand its Midwestern wind portfolio they say will save customers an estimated $4 billion over the long-term.

“This investment in renewable energy keeps bills low for customers while giving them the clean energy they want and helping us achieve 63 percent carbon-free energy by 2030,” Xcel Energy-Minnesota President Chris Clark said in a statement. “Wind energy is at historically low prices right now so we’re able to reduce emissions while securing long-term cost savings for our customers.”

The 750 MW of self-build projects announced in October include:

  • The 200 MW Freeborn Wind Energy farm in Minnesota and Iowa, to be developed by Invenergy;
  • The 150 MW Foxtail Wind project in North Dakota, developed by NextEra Energy Resources;
  • Blazing Star 1 and 2, each a 200 MW farm in Minnesota to be developed by Geronimo Energy.

And another 800 MW of newly-proposed projects will be owned by other companies, with Xcel Energy obtaining the power through purchase agreements.

  • The Crowned Ridge Wind Project in South Dakota will be a 300 MW build-own-transfer project with a 300 MW purchased power agreement. That project will be developed by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy;
  • The Lake Benton Wind Project in Minnesota will be a 100 MW build-own-transfer project developed by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy;
  • And Clean Energy 1 in North Dakota, to be developed by ALLETE Clean Energy, includes a 100 MW power purchase agreement.

Xcel added it is taking advantage of federal production tax credits to secure low wind energy prices, and will use advanced in turbine technology, improved wind forecasting and a newly expanded transmission system to deliver clean power. All the projects still require regulatory approval, but aim to be in service by 2020.

While Xcel touts its extensive investment in wind energy in the Midwest, it also faces criticism over its plan to replace its retired coal units of the Sherco coal plant with natural gas. Minnesota regulators approved its plan to replace the coal-fired generation with approximately 1,800 MW of wind, 1,400 MW of solar, a 780 MW gas-fired combined cycle plant and a 230 MW gas-fired combustion turbine in Fargo, North Dakota. But the state's lawmakers have proposed measures allowing the utility to circumvent the Public Service Commission in order to build a gas-fired plant to replace some of the lost capacity. 

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Filed Under: Solar & Renewables
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