Xcel Energy Inc., one of the first major investor-owned utilities in the U.S. to announce a goal to decarbonize its power fleet, plans to cut emissions from its generation facilities 80% from 2005 levels by 2030, and to deliver carbon-free power by 2050. To reach this goal, the company, which serves 3.6 million electric customers across parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico, will add 2,074 MW of wind power through 2021, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence.
At the same time, though, Xcel plans to significantly expand its natural gas-fired fleet in the coming years, building more than 2,500 MW of new natural gas generation capacity and adding another 577 MW through acquisition.
S&P Global Market Intelligence comprehensively tracks units of at least 1 MW in size that will supply more than 50% of the power they generate to the grid, based on publicly announced projects, projects in development and projects under construction. Xcel spokesman Randy Fordice said that the company plans to add 4,826 MW of wind generation by the end of 2021, of which it will own 3,450 MW. He also said the company has plans for 4,700 MW of solar in Minnesota and Colorado, as well as 275 MW of battery storage in Colorado.
Natural gas is "an important bridge fuel on the path to achieving our carbon-free vision by 2050, to provide reliability as we bring more wind and solar into our system," Fordice said.
The company acknowledges that its path to zero-carbon power generation will be challenging. Xcel subsidiary Northern States Power Co. said in a July 1 resource plan filed with Minnesota regulators that transitioning to a carbon-free grid will "require technologies that have not yet been developed or deployed economically." Xcel's current portfolio, including contracted capacity, comprises 29,104 MW, including 11,298 MW of natural gas; 7,505 MW of wind; 6,489 MW of coal; 1,738 MW of nuclear; 930 MW of solar; 578 MW of hydropower; and 565 MW of other fuels.
Xcel said that it plans to eliminate coal-fired generation entirely from its Upper Midwest fleet by 2030 by adding solar power, expanding energy efficiency programs and acquiring the 577-MW Mankato Power Plant, a combined-cycle natural gas facility that Xcel has proposed to purchase for $650 million from Southern Co. subsidiary Southern Power Co. Northern States already purchases power from the facility under two separate, 20-year contracts, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. On Sept. 27, though, Minnesota regulators rejected the proposed purchase, directing Xcel to supplement its integrated resource plan to include scenarios under which it would continue purchasing the plant's output through power purchase agreements. Xcel on Oct. 3 filed a new application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to acquire the plant through a newly formed subsidiary, MEC Holdings, Inc.
Xcel in 2017 announced plans for the $816 million, 800-MW Sherburne County Combined Cycle Plant, near Minneapolis, scheduled to come online in 2027. Xcel subsidiary Northern States Power Co. - Minnesota owns the project.
Wind in the West
In Texas, Xcel plans to build the $4 billion, 1,706-MW Greenfield Electric Power Generation Facility (Gaines County Generating Station), owned by subsidiary Southwestern Public Service Co. There is no scheduled online date for the Greenfield facility; Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves said the plant is "still considered to be in a development phase."
In Minnesota, the 200-MW Blazing Star I Wind Farm is being built under a partnership to provide manufacturing company 3M Co. with renewable power. Xcel's 200-MW, $350 million Blazing Star II Wind Farm is expected to come online in 2020, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. The company's planned wind-power additions include the $276 million, 150-MW Foxtail Wind Project in Dickey County, N.D., which is under construction. In South Dakota, Xcel plans to build the $559 million, 302-MW Dakota Range Wind I & II, which is in advanced development, with an online date in April 2021.
The company's other wind projects under development include the $900 million, 522-MW Sagamore Wind Project, in New Mexico, expected to come online in December 2020, and the $900 million, 500-MW Cheyenne Ridge Wind farm in eastern Colorado, expected to come online in December, 2020.
As for solar, S&P Global Market Intelligence's data show one 3.5-MW project, the Wheaton Solar Facility in Chippewa County, Wisc., which does not yet have a projected start-up date.
Fordice, the Xcel spokesman, said that under the approved Colorado Energy Plan, Xcel will add 700 MW of solar energy and 275 MW of large-scale battery storage in that state. By 2026, the company expects its Colorado energy supply to be 55% renewable, Fordice said.
Xcel's Upper Midwest Energy plan, which the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is reviewing, proposes adding 4,000 MW of utility-scale solar by 2034. Combined with the company's proposed extension of the use of one of its nuclear plants, 75% of the company's electricity will be carbon-free in the region by 2034, with 60% of that coming from renewables, Fordice said.