Minneapolis-based energy provider Xcel Energy wants to triple large-scale solar-power generation in Colorado and significantly boost wind energy and electricity from the company's natural-gas-fueled plants.
Xcel filed a report with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on Sept. 9 requesting approval of the new plan, which includes an additional 450 MW of wind energy beyond the current 2,650 MW, another 170 MW of solar power above the 80 MW already being produced and an additional 317 MW of natural-gas-generated power. The plan includes the expected closure of Denver's Arapahoe coal-powered plant by the end of the year and conversion of Xcel's Cherokee plant, also in Denver, to natural gas by the end of 2017.
David Eves, president and CEO of Xcel's Colorado subsidiary, said in a statement that the plan "makes good sense for our customers and the environment." The Colorado PUC is expected to rule on Xcel's large-scale energy plan by Dec. 9.
Meanwhile, Xcel also has asked the state's PUC for permission to cut, by more than 80%, the incentives it offers to small-scale solar customers in Colorado through its Solar Reward program, which rewards homeowners, businesses and municipalities that install rooftop solar panels. Xcel says the costs of the program far outweigh its benefits. It seeks to reduce incentives to 6 MW from a planned 36 MW.
The move reflects a national trend among utilities seeking rollbacks in their small-scale solar incentives as the cost of solar installations declines. A report released on Sept. 12 by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association shows continued growth in the nation's solar market. The report says the U.S. installed 832 MW of solar power in the second quarter of 2013, up 15% over 2013's first quarter. It was the solar industry's second-best quarter ever.