Xcel Energy last week filed to reduce by approximately 48 percent its solar generation acquisition targets under the 2007 Colorado Resource Plan (CRP). The company cited continuing uncertainty over an in-service date for transmission needed to move the additional electricity capacity, primarily out of the San Luis Valley of Colorado.
In a filing with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, the company is seeking to reduce overall solar generation acquisition to no greater than 185 MW through 2015, from the 355 MW originally approved. With minor upgrades to existing transmission, this is the maximum amount of new solar generation the company can add in the valley.
“Our commitment to the development of solar resources from the San Luis Valley over the long-term has not changed. But, because we cannot guarantee the ability to move power to the grid when these solar resources become available, we are compelled to step back from our original plans and seek this reduction,” said Karen Hyde, Xcel Energy regulatory vice president.
Xcel Energy and its project partner, the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., filed for a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” (CPCN) for the Southern Colorado Transmission Improvements Project in May 2009, based the potential development of solar resources and overall improved reliability for the region.
The CPCN, which addresses the purpose and need for the transmission line project, has not yet been ruled upon. Xcel Energy had originally hoped to have the new transmission line in service by the summer of 2013, but now believes that the chances of meeting this target have become increasingly remote.
“This is not a short-term economic issue or decision, as some would characterize it,” Hyde said. “We believe in taking the longer-term view, which is that the San Luis Valley has the potential to become one of the nation’s leading centers from the production of clean, renewable energy. But, it needs transmission to do so.”
Hyde noted that reliability also is an equally critical concern. The San Luis Valley and other parts of southern Colorado are not served by a traditional “looped” system, which provides power over transmission lines from multiple and separate sources. Originally planning for the line began more than a decade ago.
The CPUC approved the most recent resource plan for Xcel Energy in December 2008. Xcel Energy files resources plans approximately every four years, and they are designed to determine future energy needs and generating resources for a period of up to 10 years.
The company currently is negotiating final contracts for various natural gas, wind and solar projects under the 2007 CRP. To date, it has announced two major wind power contracts, one each near New Raymer, Colo. and Limon, Colo., totaling approximately 500 megawatts; it also has an agreement to purchase approximately 900 megawatts of existing generation from two natural-gas fired resources.