Xcel to boost renewables in Colorado, including 170 MW of solar

U.S. electricity and gas giant Xcel Energy said this week that it was looking to add new cost-effective solar and wind energy resources to meet the future electricity needs of Colorado.

The company, which serves 3.4 million electricity customers in eight U.S. states, filed a proposal on Tuesday with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). If the plan is approved, the company would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than one-third from 2005 levels.

"This plan demonstrates the right way to advance clean energy because it keeps the focus on customer costs," said 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."

The company’s recommendations include 170 MW of new, utility-scale Colorado solar power, 450 MW of new Colorado wind power and 317 MW of low cost natural gas generation that would provide operational flexibility the utility relies on to 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," added David Eves, president and CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel Energy company. "For the first time ever, we are adding cost competitive utility scale solar to the system. The 170 MW 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 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 company also examined whether to continue operating two older company-owned power plants or to replace them with new generation resources.

Xcel Energy’s proposal will be reviewed by an independent evaluator for the CPUC before it is considered by the Commission, which is scheduled to approve the plan as filed or make amendments to the proposal by Dec. 9, 2013.

Eves noted that the strong competition between resources and even between different types of resources yields a number of low cost resource combinations that could meet Xcel Energy’s needs by relying on varying amounts of new wind and solar and various natural gas-fired generation resources.

"Commissioners will have a great deal to consider as they review this plan and take comments from other parties," Eves said.

Xcel Energy’s latest target is in addition to 42.5 MW of on-site solar that the company has proposed through separate proceedings with the CPUC, under the 2014 Renewable Energy Standard Compliance Plan. That proposal was recently sent to an administrative law judge with the CPUC for further regulatory action.