Xcel reveals $2.5BN plan for 7 wind farms in Midwest – 4 of them in Minnesota

The utility wants 63 percent of its energy to come from carbon-free sources by 2030.

Minnesota is about to get a whole lot more wind turbines, with hundreds of them set to be installed through Xcel Energy's largest ever wind investment to date.

The utility announced Thursday it wants to spend $2.5 billion on seven wind farms across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa, consisting of more than 500 turbines that between them would provide enough energy to power more than 800,000 homes.

Minnesota is set to get four of these wind farms, with the total energy generated by all seven estimated at 1,550 megawatts.

And with the price of wind power dropping all the time, Xcel Minnesota President Chris Clark said it will deliver "long-term cost savings" to its customers as well as the company itself – with more than $4 billion in fuel and other costs expected to be saved over 25 years.

It's part of Xcel's ongoing move to generate 63 percent of its energy carbon-free by 2030.

It will also be a big boost for farmers who own the land where the turbines will be placed. They can expect to receive payments worth more than $150 million between them over the life of the turbines.

Here are where the wind farms will be built in Minnesota:

  • 200MW project (so roughly 100 turbines) project in Freeborn County, MN, and Worth and Mitchell Counties, IA. Developed by Invenergy.
  • Two 200MW projects in Lincoln County, Minnesota called Blazing Star 1 and 2, both developed by Geronimo Energy.
  • The Lake Benton Wind Project in Pipestone County, 100MW developed by NextEra Energy.

All of these projects are subject to regulatory approval but Xcel is hoping they will all be up and running by 2020.

The utility is pushing ahead with its renewable energy drive despite the Trump administration being expected to scrap the Clean Power Plan signed under the Obama presidency, which demands the nation's energy providers reduce CO2 emissions from their power stations by 32 percent compared to 2005 levels.

Xcel told GoMN that the reason for this is as much economic as it is environmental, with the cost of renewable energy consistently dropping as technology improves. It's expected to be on a par with or cheaper than fossil fuels by the mid-2020s.

It has said that there should be an increase in bills in the short-term because of the investment in renewable infrastructure, but long-term the wind farms should keep bills down.

Xcel's future in Minnesota isn't just renewable, though. Last month it was given approval to build a gas-fired plant at its Sherco facility in Becker, to replace the capacity it will lose when it closes down two units of its coal-fired power station by the mid-2020s.

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Xcel plan gone with the wind

The Minneapolis-based utility says its wind energy plans are stalled with a tax credit set to expire. Xcel Energy is an industry leader in wind power, but officials say additional projects wouldn't be cost effective without tax subsidies. A national energy association predicts without the credit nearly 40 thousand jobs will be lost.