Xcel Energy Counters Critics With Proposal For 170 MW Of New Solar


Colorado utility Xcel Energy is proposing to add new solar and wind energy resources to meet the state's future electricity needs, according to a report filed with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

Xcel's recommendations include 170 MW of new utility-scale solar power, 450 MW of new wind power and 317 MW of natural gas generation that it says would provide operational flexibility the utility needs to reliably integrate renewable resources into its electric supply mix.

‘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,’ says David Eves, president and CEO of Public Service Co., an Xcel Energy company. ‘For the first time ever, we are adding cost-competitive utility-scale solar to the system. 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.’

Xcel Energy's announcement is in addition to 42.5 MW of on-site solar that the company has proposed through separate proceedings with the PUC, under the 2014 Renewable Energy Standard compliance plan. That proposal recently was sent to an administrative law judge with the PUC for further regulatory action.

Xcel Energy has been under intense criticism from solar sector advocates as its recent proposals filed with the PUC also includes a request to re-evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the state's NEM policies. The utility maintains that some costs of NEM are unfairly shouldered by non-solar ratepayers, while critics, including the Vote Solar Initiative, say Xcel's analysis is flawed and NEM actually lowers grid costs.

‘This plan demonstrates the right way to advance clean energy because it keeps the focus on customer costs,’ says Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. ‘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.’

Details of the Xcel Energy proposal include the following:

  • The addition of 170 MW of utility-scale solar generation would use single-axis tracking to maximize solar generation during the day. The company currently has about 80 MW of utility-scale solar and 160 MW of customer-sited solar generation;
  • The addition of 450 MW of wind generation is an adjustment from the 550 MW the company initially recommended early this summer after its early wind request for proposal. This additional wind would bring the installed capacity on the company's system in Colorado to 2.65 GW; and
  • The proposed 317 MW of natural gas-fired generation would come from existing Colorado power plants that previously supplied Xcel Energy but would do so going forward at reduced prices. The company says this ‘flexible generation’ allows it to start, bring up and turn down generation online in relatively short periods of time as wind and solar generation vary throughout the day.

Xcel Energy's proposal must be reviewed by an independent evaluator for the PUC and ultimately considered by the commission, which is scheduled to approve the plan as filed or make amendments to the proposal by Dec. 9, 2013.

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