Xcel Energy expects to complete construction of almost 2GW of new wind this year, the largest multi-state investment of any US investor-owned utility and key to its goal for renewables to provide half its power by mid-decade.
Xcel expects to have more than 11GW on its system by 2021, which it said would be the most of any electric utility in the western hemisphere.
Minneapolis-based Xcel is almost halfway through an aggressive, multi-year 4.7GW wind expansion in Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas.
By 31 December, it had 2.8GW of wind in construction or in advanced stages of development with 2.15GW owned and the balance contracted long-term, according to latest figures from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), a national trade group.
“We are proud of our continued progress in leading the clean energy transition on our path to 80% carbon reductions by 2030 and 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050,” said chief executive Ben Fowke.
Over the last five years, Xcel has run neck-and-neck with Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE) for having the most wind power on their systems among US regulated utilities. BHE began 2019 slightly ahead with 7.55GW versus 7.26GW for Xcel, which likely regained the lead in fourth quarter last year.
Both utility groups heavily use federal tax credits that help them to install wind power capacity at a price cheaper than the fuel its customers would have paid for if not replaced by turbines. In most cases that signifies natural gas, but also coal.
Completion of the present build-out doesn’t signify Xcel is done adding wind capacity either via new projects or re-powering older ones that can qualify again for the PTC for another decade if at least 80% of the property’s value is new, Fowke said on a conference call.
Last December, the US Congress renewed the PTC at 60% value giving developers and owners of projects if they build or re-power them by 2024.
“The 60% PTC extension allows you to lock in technology through 2024 and I think that will potentially create some more opportunities,” said Fowke.