Xcel Energy plans Colorado wind project

Xcel Energy Inc. said it plans to add a 200-megawatt wind project to its 2,400 megawatt wind portfolio in Colorado, saving customers more than $142 million in fuel costs in the next two decades.

Xcel (NYSE:XEL) will solicit bids for the project soon following approval by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, Xcel spokesman Gabriel Romero said. Xcel announced the project this week.

Construction on the project will begin “immediately” so that Xcel can qualify for the federal production tax credit, the company said. Xcel wants to move quickly since Congress in January approved just a one-year extension.

“Ultimately, we don’t really know what’s going to happen with that tax (credit), if it’s going to stay, go away, if it’s going to be reduced,” Romero said.

Xcel said wants to add an additional 350 megawatts, which the company said the utilities commission will decide on this fall, for a total of 550 additional megawatts.

The Colorado projects represent one of several by the utility in Minnesota, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The total of 1,500 megawatts of wind would represent a 30-percent increase in Xcel’s overall wind capacity.

“Wind energy is a valuable, low-cost substitute for natural gas and other fuels right now,” Xcel CEO Ben Fowke said in a statement. “These projects will lower customer costs by at least $800 million over their lives and will provide a valuable hedge to rising and volatile fuel prices for well into the future.”

The wind power expansion, along with previous conservation, renewable energy and power-plant improvement projects, put Xcel on track to reduce its carbon emissions by 28 million tons, or more than 31 percent by 2020, the utility said.

Xcel will generate more than 20 percent of its total energy from wind if regulators approve the projects.

Xcel provides service in Greeley and other parts of Northern Colorado.

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