Project Merit: Wind Power

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Xcel Energy for setting a goal of growing its wind portfolio by 40% in 2013, adding about 1,900 MW of wind power resources throughout its service territory, building on the 4,900 MW of wind turbines pumping electrons onto Xcel's grids at the end of 2012. While it's too soon to tell how much of that goal has been achieved, there's no question that Xcel Energy, which operates utility companies in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico and Wisconsin, is the largest purchaser of wind-generated power in the United States.

While MidAmerican holds the honor of owning the most wind power capacity of any U.S. utility, Xcel has chosen to secure most of its wind energy through power purchase agreements (PPAs) with independent power producers. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) named Xcel Energy its "Utility of the Year" for 2013 and noted that the company set a national record in Colorado for peak wind generation in May: 60.5% or 1,874 MW of a total load of 3,100 MW between 1 and 2 AM.

With such heavy penetration of wind on its systems, Xcel is a pioneer in wind integration, having conducted trials with energy storage devices and working with the National Center for Atmospheric Research on high-resolution forecasting systems "to better predict wind energy and power down fossil fuel plants when the wind is blowing," according to its website. "We estimate improved forecasting has saved customers about $22 million so far in fuel costs since the effort began in 2009."