Wind powers Xcel Energy to top of the charts

Source: By Kevin Welch, Amarillo Globe News • Posted: Tuesday, April 22, 2014

 Xcel Energy is tops in wind energy among utilities nationwide and one third of that capacity serves its customers in the Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico.

Trade group American Wind Energy Association ranked Xcel as the utility providing the most wind energy for the 10th consecutive year, according to a report the group issued earlier this month. The company’s total capacity in 2013 was 5,080 megawatts or 15 percent of Xcel’s national energy supply.

“We embraced wind energy early because it’s clean, cost-effective and will protect our customers against rising fuel prices in the future,” said Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel, in a written statement.

The wind energy connected to this region’s grid is just more than 1,700 megawatts.

“Most of that wind energy stays in the area, but some of it is transported to the east,” said local Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves. “Of those megawatts, we have 604 contracted through long-term power purchase agreements. Wind energy accounts for almost 10 percent of the energy our Texas-New Mexico customers use on a 12-month average. We have seen spikes of up to 33 percent on certain windy days.”

A megawatt is enough electricity to supply about 350 average Texas homes, according to industry estimates. A wind turbine with a capacity of one megawatt only has the capability to produce that much energy because of the variability of wind speeds and other factors.

Homes and businesses in the region can expect more of their power to come from wind in the near future.

“We have contracted for 700 additional megawatts through long-term purchase, 450 of which should be online by the end of this year,” Reeves said. “The remaining 250 or so will come online in 2015.”

The company credits scientific advances for its success.

“Through state-of-the-art wind forecasting tools, Xcel Energy continues to save customers money and set national records for the amount of wind energy on its system,” according to a news release. “One early morning hour in May 2013, wind energy provided more than 60 percent of Xcel Energy’s electricity supply on its Colorado system, which is a national record.”