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Major Colorado project leaves Xcel on track for wind target

The company anticipates having 11.5GW of wind capacity on its eight-state system by 2021, the most of any electric utility in the western hemisphere

Xcel Energy claimed it is on course to have more wind on its system than any other utility in the western hemisphere by 2021, after an ambitious build programme that's soon to include another huge project in Colorado.

Xcel expects construction of the 500MW Cheyenne Ridge project in eastern Colorado to be finished in December. Vestas will supply 229 turbines for the $743m facility, which will be the third largest on Xcel’s eight-state electric system serving 3.6 million customers.

Earlier this decade, Xcel embarked on an ambitious wind investment programme that it calls 'Steel for Fuel'. Xcel expects to have 11.5GW of wind on its system by 2021, the most of any electric utility in the western hemisphere, according to chief executive Ben Fowke.

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That build-out includes the 600MW Rush Creek facility in Colorado and 478MW Hale in the northern Texas Panhandle – both in operation – and 522MW Sagamore wind farm in eastern New Mexico, which Xcel will start construction in the fourth quarter.

Cheyenne Ridge will qualify for the federal production tax credit at full value – $24/MWh for power delivered to the grid during the project’s initial decade of operation – if the construction schedule is met.

The Steel for Fuel moniker comes from Xcel’s ability to put steel, in this case wind farms, in service at a price that is cheaper than the fuel its customers would have used if not replaced by turbines.

Xcel believes with today’s available renewable and carbon-free generation and energy storage technologies, it can cost-effectively cut emissions 80% by 2030. To reach its 100% carbon-free electricity goal by 2050, however, will require technologies that are not yet commercially available.

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