In a new filing with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Xcel Energy has lowered how much wind energy it is seeking to add to its portfolio in the state from 550 MW to 450 MW. In addition, the utility company wants to add 170 MW of utility-scale solar power and renew contracts for natural gas generation in order to help provide operational flexibility.
In June, Xcel Energy filed a plan with PUC seeking 550 MW of wind energy. However, the regulator only approved 200 MW, according to Xcel spokesperson Gabriel Romero. He tells NAW that the utility company went back to the drawing board and devised a new plan, including the already-approved 200 MW of wind, that sought a mix of cost-competitive resources. He says the other 250 MW of wind makes economic sense for ratepayers and the utility, especially when combined with solar power and cheaper natural gas contracts.
As part of the proposal, Xcel is asking permission to renew 317 MW in power purchase agreements (PPAs) with an existing natural gas plant. The PPAs are set to expire, but Romero says the new contracts would be much cheaper. The natural-gas-fired generation, he adds, will help ensure the utility can integrate the proposed wind and solar power, which comes from variable resources. Xcel has also proposed closing a 109 MW coal-fired plant by year-end, ahead of schedule.
Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy, commented on the filing.
"This plan demonstrates the right way to advance clean energy because it keeps the focus on customer costs," Fowke said in a press release. "We have a clear track record of implementing clean energy projects that create significant customer value and keep rates affordable. This plan continues that effort, and we are positioned to take advantage of very favorable pricing for some great projects."
"This request will add significant amounts of wind and solar energy to the system at the right price, and it makes good sense for our customers and the environment," added David Eves – president and CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel Energy company – in the release.
"For the first time ever, we are adding cost-competitive utility-scale solar to the system," Eves continued. "The 170 megawatts we recommend would triple Xcel Energy's current utility-scale solar in Colorado, and it equates to all of the customer-sited solar in the state of Colorado, at about one-half of the cost."
The company currently has 160 MW of customer-sited and 80 MW of utility-scale solar generation. This new proposal is in addition to an earlier filing for 42.5 MW of on-site solar, which is still under review.
Xcel Energy says the PUC is set to rule on the utility's new filing by Dec. 9.