The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 23, 2013

Wind power requirement proposal goes to state lawmakers



Xcel opposes both the solar standard and the increase to 40 percent renewables by 2030, Regional Vice President Laura McCarten said.

“We really would be concerned about arbitrarily setting a new higher level without having gone through a more thoughtful assessment of what the implications are,” she said of the 40 percent rule.

Part of McCarten’s concern comes from wind’s unreliability. Overall, about 12 percent of Xcel’s energy comes from wind power. But the amount of power generated at one time fluctuates as the state gets more and less windy. On the windy day of Feb. 17, for example, about 33 percent of the Xcel’s energy came from wind, she said.

So, if Xcel relies more on wind energy, it would have to spend more money to make sure everyone gets enough power on windless days.

Xcel’s opposition to the solar mandate focuses on its cost. The 4 percent mandate would cost roughly $1 billion, she said. That’s all new spending — solar can’t replace power generated using other means because the sun doesn’t provide the on-demand “peaking” power that Xcel actually needs.

That said, McCarten said Xcel’s wind energy spending hasn’t led to any price increases for customers. In other words, if the company had bought natural gas instead of wind, customers would be paying roughly the same amount.

Hamilton, the renewable energy advocate, said people who support the higher renewable energy standard should contact their legislators.

The state Senate’s version of the energy bill includes the 4 percent solar standard but only calls for study of the 40 percent by 2030 renewables standard. The House version includes both the solar and renewables standard increases.

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