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Seeing Green

Renewables attract utility investment dollars.

Fortnightly Magazine - May 2009

30 MW. A large additional portion of our electricity also comes from non-emitting large hydro and nuclear power.

Our strategy is to focus our investments on proven technologies. We’re looking at wind power, as well as concentrating solar power and other proven technologies. We continue to look at small hydro upgrades, where it’s feasible and environmentally appropriate. Also, we’ve filed with FERC to begin feasibility studies to build additional pumped storage on our system, which greatly helps to facilitate integrating renewables into the grid.

The second part of our focus has been on customer-owned facilities, mostly PV. We have about 29,000 customer-owned facilities representing about 290 MW. This comes from a combination of programs we have in conjunction state and federal programs that provide rebate opportunities for customers to make those investments.

Stoering, Xcel: Like most utilities Xcel predominately has contracted for renewables from third parties. Ñow we have almost 3,700 MW of wind in our portfolio. We are a national leader in wind power, and also a leader in solar and other renewable technologies. We see our renewable portfolio probably doubling and then some.

Our most significant wind facility entered commercial operation in December 2008, the 100-MW Grand Meadow wind farm in south-central Minnesota. We announced plans for two additional significant projects—the 200-MW Nobles wind farm in southwestern Minnesota, and the 150-MW Merricourt project in North Dakota. Those projects will become operational in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

We’ve built a nice pipeline of owned resources to complement our contracted resources, and we’ve done it in a disciplined way, which over time we’ve learned is valuable.

We also have a few other renewable projects sprinkled throughout our territories. We have a refuse-derived fuel plant in Minnesota, and we announced a project to convert a facility in Wisconsin to burn biomass. That will be one of the biggest biomass projects in the country if we gain approval.

Our planning horizon looks out to 2020, which is when most of the RPS requirements sunset in their current form. We look to add 7,000 to 9,000 MW of renewables to hit those standards, and we want balance through all of that.


Fortnightly: As a general matter, would your company prefer to own renewable generating capacity or contract to buy power from third-party owners?

Kuga, PG&E: With the change last year in federal law, as well as the economic stimulus, utilities now have the same type of incentives from a tax standpoint as third parties do. So you’re seeing a greater amount of utility activity from investor-owned utilities. We’re no different. We recently proposed a program to add 250 MW of utility-owned PV on our system, 50 MW a year over a five-year period. That request is pending before the California PUC. What’s unique about this is we have a companion program where another 250 MW is available to third parties under PPA at the utility’s price, which will be updated for future contracts as PV prices change. The expectation is that PV prices will decline, and we’ll reflect that [in future PPA prices].