Wind powers surge in generation

Colorado ranks among the top 10 states for new wind power installations, part of a nationwide surge in electric generation from the renewable energy source.

Wind power grew 28 percent in the United States in 2012 alone and became the top new source for electric generating capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), a national trade association of 2,000 member companies in the wind industry.

A total of 66 U.S. utilities bought or owned wind by the start of 2013, up from 42 utilities a year before. Other new wind power purchasers last year included 18 industrial buyers, 11 school districts and a total of eight cities and towns.

New wind power installations accounted for a total of about $25 billion in private investments, the AWEA stated in a news release.

In addition to generating additional electricity, wind power installations also reduce the emission of so-called green houses gas believed to cause global warming. By one estimate, currently installed wind turbines avoid the equivalent of nearly 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year — about 1.8 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions in the country.

The federal Production Tax Credit for wind energy, which was extended in January, has helped to encourage the purchase of wind power, said Rob Gramlich, interim CEO of the AWEA. “AWEA applauds these utilities for maximizing the PTC opportunity to continue bringing low-cost, fixed-price wind power to their customers.”

“The wind energy industry looks forward to our continued partnerships with utilities across the country to lock in the economic development, rate stabilizing and environmental benefits of more wind power,” Gramlich added.

Colorado ranked 10th for the most new wind power installations in 2012. Texas topped the list, while California, Kansas, Oklahoma and Illinois rounded out the top five states.

Xcel Energy, the top wind power provider in the U.S., is considering adding still more wind generation capacity in Colorado and Minnesota because of the PTC extension.

In Colorado, Xcel Energy has set national records for generating more than half of its electricity from wind power and is now seeking regulatory approval to accelerate the process to purchase additional wind power.

“We have a great opportunity to see if additional wind resources in Colorado would be of economic benefit to our customers with the extension of the federal tax credit but we must act quickly,” said Ben Fowke, president, chairman and chief executive officer of Xcel Energy. “Our request is not being driven by state renewable energy standards, but by the opportunity to reduce costs.”

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which also supplies electricity in Colorado, announced plans to purchase additional power to help its member cooperatives in Colorado and New Mexico meet renewable portfolio standard requirements.

 “Given the recently extended federal Production Tax Credit and sustained competitive pricing in the renewable energy sector, we felt this was a good time to explore adding an additional project or projects to Tri-State’s renewable resource portfolio,” said Susan Hunter, business development manager for Tri-State.

Hunter said Tri-State expects to solicit bids for projects in which construction will begin before the end of 2013 to qualify for the Production Tax Credit and be in service before the end of 2014.

Only renewable resources that meet the definitions of the Colorado and New Mexico renewal portfolio standard requirements will be considered, Hunter said. These resources include wind, solar, small hydro, geothermal and biomass. In Colorado, recycled energy also meets the requirements.

 Tri-State will seek renewable energy deliveries of up to 400,000 megawatt-hours per year, which is roughly equivalent to the output of a 100-megawatt wind farm with an annual capacity factor of 45 percent. Proposals must include deliveries of at least 15,000 megawatt-hours per year, Hunter said.