Xcel lays out plan for 1.55GW of new Midwest wind capacity

Xcel Energy, which has more wind on its system than any other US utility, detailed plans on Thursday to add 1.55GW of new wind capacity in the upper Midwest by 2020, all of it qualified for the full production tax credit.

The plan includes 750MW of projects Xcel proposed last autumn and 800MW of new proposals – including the 600MW Crowned Ridge project in South Dakota, which is being developed by NextEra Energy and would be the largest wind farm ever built in the state.

“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,” says Chris Clark, Xcel’s president in Minnesota.

The projects represent $2.5bn of capital investment to be made by Xcel and its developer partners, and the completed wind farms are expected to save the utility $4bn in fuel costs over the coming decades.

The 1.55GW includes both capacity that will be owned outright by Xcel and secured through long-term power-purchase agreements. Xcel has been at the forefront of a recent trend of some US utilities choosing to own wind farms rather than simply buying the power.

The 800MW of newly proposed capacity includes Crowned Ridge and the 100MW Lake Benton project in Minnesota, also developed by NextEra. Both would be constructed by NextEra on a build-own-transfer basis. It also includes the 100MW Clean Energy 1 project, with developer Allete Clean Energy to build the wind farm in North Dakota and sell the power to Xcel under a PPA.

Meanwhile, the 750MW of wind capacity Xcel proposed last year will all be self-built and owned in-house. Those four wind projects – the 200MW Freeborn built across Minnesota and Iowa; the 150MW Foxtail in North Dakota; and the 400MW Blazing Star 1 & 2 – were developed by Invenergy, NextEra and Geronimo Energy, respectively.

Xcel is about to begin construction at its 600MW Rush Creek wind project in Colorado. Vestas is supplying turbines at Rush Creek, while Mortenson Construction is acting as EPC contractor.