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4,000 MW and counting: Xcel Energy punctuates busy first half of 2013 for RFPs, contracts

Back in early February of this year—barely a month after Congress had passed the federal wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) extension—Xcel Energy, the leading utility in America for wind on its wires, sent a letter to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The message to regulators: we want more wind energy.

Noting that the PTC had been extended and was ready to be used this year, the investor-owned utility told the state’s regulators that on the 15th of the month, it planned to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for up to 200 MW of wind generation resources for its Minnesota utility subsidiary, Northern States Power Co. Good news for the wind energy industry, for sure.

But recently, the utility changed its tune. Xcel said it had decided it doesn’t want 200 MW for its Northern States Power subsidiary. It wants 600 MW.

This recent news is emblematic of what’s taken place this year on the RFP and power purchase agreement (PPA) front. Since Xcel Energy’s initial solicitation last winter, a flurry of wind energy RFPs has come down the pike this year from several utilities. Punctuated by the recent announcement of more megawatts for Xcel, the first half of the year has proven to be busy for wind energy RFPs, power contracts, and newly planned megawatts—and in many cases it’s wind’s winning low prices driving the trend.

Perennial leader

Certainly, the leader of the pack has been Xcel Energy. The utility now has new PPAs for projects that will bring approximately 1,850 MW online—likely the most wind megawatts ever inked by a utility in a single year. Not bad for a utility that’s held the leadership position for wind on its wires for years.

Here’s how those 1,850 MW break down:

Megawatts going to Xcel subsidiary Southwestern Public Service:

199 MW from NextEra Energy’s Mammoth Plains project in Oklahoma
249 MW from NextEra’s Palo Duro project in Texas
250 MW from developer Infinity Wind Resource’s Roosevelt Wind project in New Mexico

Megawatts going to Xcel subsidiary Northern States Power:

200 MW from developer Geronimo Energy’s Courtenay project in North Dakota
200 MW from Geronimo’s Odell project in Minnesota
200 MW from RES Americas’ Pleasant Valley project, also in Minnesota.

(These three facilities make up the additional 600 MW announced this week.)
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