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Xcel Energy pushing wind power

BOULDER – Xcel Energy is working on a plan to purchase wind power – possibly from a wind farm being built near Limon – which could be sold in Boulder in the future, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Those plans come as the city of Boulder decides whether to move forward in a relationship with Xcel, a private utility company.

On Tuesday night, Boulder City Council members approved the idea of asking voters in November whether or not they want to have that relationship. The city council vote came after council members heard a renewable energy pitch from Xcel.

Boulder City Council members also have been discussing the possibility of asking voters to decide whether the city should run its own municipal utility.

The city council has until Aug. 16 to decide what it wants to put on the ballot, following Tuesday’s vote.

At the same time, Xcel Energy is making plans, too, said Gabriel Romero, an Xcel spokesman.

“The next step is to see what Boulder is going to decide. At the moment, what we’re putting together is how we purchase that,” Romero said. “We’re waiting for approval so we can let the company that’s building (the wind farm) know that we want X amount of megawatts.”

Boulder could be “the most green city worldwide” by 2020 under the renewable energy plan Xcel Energy presented. Boulder would see about 70 percent renewable energy capability within the first year of a new franchise agreement, Xcel Energy said. By 2020, the city would see about 90 percent renewable energy capability.

Boulder City Council members decided last year to let its 20-year franchise agreement with Xcel expire at the end of 2010.

The city government – and, presumably, utility customers in Boulder – could initially pay more for the proposed new wind power, since wind energy currently costs more than fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, Xcel said in a press statement. In later years of the plan, the city could receive money back as the cost of fossil fuels increase and wind energy becomes more valuable, Xcel said.

“We’re hoping that down the road, based on our forecasts, that wind purchases would be lower cost than any other sort of other power,” Romero said Wednesday. “It’s already comparable to gas. As prices of fossil fuels go up, it certainly makes financial sense.”

The city of Boulder has said that officials welcome Xcel’s plan and look to evaluate it against the city’s own energy goals.