Xcel sets world record for wind power generation
Nov. 15 2011 -Mark Jaffe -Denverpost.com
Early on the morning of Oct. 6, Xcel Energy set a world record for electricity from wind power.
Between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. on that day, 55.6 percent of the electricity consumed by Xcel's 1 million customers, or at least those that were awake, came from the wind farms dotting the state.
"That is the highest recorded wind penetration record in the world for a utility system, as best we know," said Michael Goggin, manager of transmission for policy for the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group.
The previous high - 53 percent - was recorded in 2009 in Spain, Goggin said.
"We're proud of that and believe it shows that wind is an important part of the portfolio," said Michelle Aguayo, an Xcel spokeswoman.
There is an on-going debate among utility executives and engineers about how much wind can be put in the electrical grid and its dependability.
The Xcel record was set at a time that the wind is usually strong and the demand for electricity is low.
Minneapolis-based Xcel — with 3,400 megawatts of wind power across its eight-state service area — is the nation's top wind power generator, according to the wind association.
Improved wind forecasting, energy trading and grid operating improvements are allowing more wind power to be used, Xcel executives said.
"Xcel's experience shows that greater penetration of wind power is possible and the lights will stay on.
Xcel is appearing before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission Nov. 21 seeking to add another 200 megawatts of wind from NextEra Energy.
Xcel officials said the terms of the NextEra offer were so good, they would add it to the company's Windsource Program - a voluntary program to promote renewable energy.
The proposed wind farm in Limon would have the lowest wind costs Xcel has ever paid, Xcel officials said.
The charge for the electricity from the Limon facility will start at $27.50 a megawatt-hour. Xcel's average purchase cost for wind since 2007 has been $42.16, according to the company.
Over the 25-year contract, the price will increase about 2 percent a year, according to the company.
The proposed deal has been challenged before PUC by the Climax Molybdenum Co., one of Xcel's largest customers.
Climax contends in a filing that the extra wind is not needed to meet the Colorado renewable energy standard, which requires 30 percent of Xcel's power to come from renewable sources, and is not needed nor is it needed to meet demand.
Mark Jaffe: 303-954-1912 or MJaffe@denverpost.com