Xcel Shifts Focus From Coal to Wind and Natural Gas

Xcel Shifts Focus From Coal to Wind and Natural Gas

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Amarillo Chuck

Xcel Energy filed plans with regulators Monday outlining its clean energy strategy for the next 15 years. Between 2011 and 2025, Xcel wants to replace coal-fired generating units with cleaner natural gas and wind energy, while also boosting customer energy efficiency.

The company's Upper Midwest Resource Plan, which must be filed every two to three years, details its desire to shut down two boilers that generate 270 megawatts of coal-fired electricity at its Black Dog facility in Burnsville, Minn. They would be replaced with 680 megawatts of natural gas capacity in 2016 or later.

Xcel (XEL) also wants to increase its wind energy capacity before the federal Production Tax Credit expires in 2012. The company is seeking request proposals for an additional 250 megawatts of wind power to help it meet the state's 2020 green power mandate where 30 percent of electricity from Xcel must come from renewable sources. Xcel will also turn to its customers to improve energy efficiency by 1.5 percent.

"We have diligently pursued the elements of our previous resource plans, including extensive energy conservation programs, early acquisition of renewables and continuing investments to renew and expand our generating fleet," Judy Poferl, president and CEO of Northern States Power -- Minnesota, an Xcel Energy company, said in a statement.  "Our proposed plan builds on this foundation, and we look forward to working with our regulators and stakeholders to ensure that our plan will best meet our customers' future energy needs."

The move reflects the company's broader national strategy to increase renewable energy and phase out older, inefficient coal-fired generating units. Xcel, for example, agreed to replace or retrofit coal-fired power plants in Colorado by 2017 in order to improve air quality.

The company also released on Tuesday early results from a wind-to-battery storage project where wind energy was successfully stored and moved to the electric grid when needed. The one-megawatt battery-storage technology is being tested in a bid to shift wind energy from off-peak to on-peak availability in order to overcome the limited predictability of wind power. The results suggest the technology also may be applicable for solar energy.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Amarillo Chuck.