A chicken in every pot and a wind turbine in every yard?
Xcel Energy is looking to buy more energy from locally owned wind projects to pump 200 more megawatts of electricity onto its grid by the end of 2008 and save ratepayers about $10 million a year.
The state’s largest power producer put out a call Friday for wind-energy proposals for its Community-Based Energy Development, or C-BED, program, which the state Legislature created in 2005 to promote locally owned alternative energy.
The deadline for submissions is April 20.
Minneapolis-based Xcel expects about 1,100 megawatts of its energy to come from wind-powered turbines by the end of this year, or about 11 percent of its total output. The company also plans on building a $210 million, 100-megawatt wind farm by 2009, which would be its first company-owned facility in Minnesota.
Under a state mandate signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Xcel must derive 30 percent of its energy from renewable resources like wind by 2020, while the state’s other energy companies must get 20 percent from so-called green resources.
Xcel wants to get as many new projects up and running by the end of 2008 so it can qualify for a federal rate rebate program that expires then, said Rick Peterson, an Xcel resource analyst.
The rebates could save $10 million a year on what Xcel customers would pay for wind energy if the company gets its desired total of 200 megawatts of power, he said.
“I expect Xcel will get a landslide of proposals,” said Beth Soholt, director of Wind on the Wires, a nonprofit group in St. Paul that promotes wind energy.
Interest in wind farms has only increased since the C-BED program was created two years ago, and with the new clean-energy mandates on Xcel and other state energy companies, entrepreneurs and their financial backers know there is a market for wind projects, Soholt said.
A typical turbine can generate between $3,000 and $5,000 in revenue a year, she said. “So if you’re a landowner with several turbines on your property, that’s a nice check to cash,” she said.
Alternative energy advocates also like C-BED’s emphasis on local ownership, said Ken Bradley, senior policy associate for Fresh Energy, another St. Paul-based nonprofit group that promotes non-polluting energy.
Local ownership means more of the money generated by wind projects stays in the state, he said. His group is working with the state Legislature this year on trying to create a “one-stop shop” to help community-based projects get expert technical and financial advice.
By Leslie Brooks Suzukamo
17 March 2007
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