Two announcements in March highlighted the continuing investment in wind energy resources in the United States. Xcel Energy announced plans to make the largest multi-state investment in wind capacity in the country, proposing 11 new wind farms in seven states. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced that Avangrid Renewables, LLC was the provisional winner in the nation’s seventh competitive lease sale for renewable wind energy in federal waters.
Xcel Energy’s plan would add a total of 3,380 megawatts (MW) of new wind generation to its system. The proposed plan significantly increases the amount of wind energy in the company’s energy mix by 2021, with wind fueling nearly 35 percent of its total energy mix.
“We’re investing big in wind because of the tremendous economic value it brings to our customers,” said Ben Fowke, chairman, president, and CEO of Xcel Energy. “With wind energy at historic low prices, we can secure savings that will benefit customers now and for decades to come.”
Xcel Energy proposed a combination of owned wind farms and power purchase agreements. The company anticipates investing a significant amount in wind generation during the next five years to build company-owned wind projects. It is using federal production tax credits to secure low wind energy prices as part of what the company called its “steel for fuel” strategy.
In Texas and New Mexico, Xcel Energy submitted a proposal to add 1,230 MW of new wind energy, with the majority owned by the company. It plans to build two wind farms and buy wind energy from another facility through a long-term contract.
- Sagamore Wind, a 522-MW self-build project located in Roosevelt County, N.M., developed by Invenergy;
- Hale Wind, a 478-MW self-build project located in Hale County, Texas, developed by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources; and
- Bonita, a 230-MW power purchase agreement project in Cochran and Crosby Counties, Texas, developed by NextEra Energy Resources.
In Colorado, construction is set to begin this spring on the Rush Creek Wind Farm, a 600-MW self-build project in Cheyenne, Elbert, Kit Carson, and Lincoln Counties, developed by Invenergy. The largest wind farm of its kind in the state, the project is expected to save Colorado customers about $1.1 billion over the life of the project.
Xcel Energy also launched its largest-ever wind expansion in the Upper Midwest, with a proposal to add seven new wind farms in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa. The plan brings an additional 1,550 MW of new wind energy to its Upper Midwest system, with most of the projects being company owned.
- Freeborn Wind Energy, a 200-MW self-build project located in Freeborn County, Minn., and Worth and Mitchell Counties, Iowa, developed by Invenergy;
- Foxtail Wind, a 150-MW self-build project located in Dickey County, N.D., developed by NextEra Energy Resources;
- Blazing Star 1, a 200-MW self-build project located in Lincoln County, Minn., developed by Geronimo Energy;
- Blazing Star 2, a 200-MW self-build project located in Lincoln County, Minn., developed by Geronimo Energy;
- Crowned Ridge Wind Project, a 300-MW build-own-transfer project and a 300-MW power purchase agreement, located in Codington, Deuel, and Grant Counties, S.D., developed by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources;
- Lake Benton Wind Project, a 100-MW build-own-transfer project in Pipestone County, Minn., developed by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources; and
- Clean Energy 1, a 100-MW power purchase agreement project in Morton and Mercer Counties, N.D., developed by ALLETE Clean Energy.
All projects are in various stages of regulatory approval.
Offshore wind lease
Avangrid Renewables submitted a high bid of $9,066,650 for a Wind Energy Area of 122,405 acres offshore Kitty Hawk, N.C., beating out bids from Wind Future LLC, Statoil Wind US LLC, and wpd offshore Alpha LLC.
BOEM said that it has been working with the North Carolina Renewable Energy Task Force since 2010 to identify an area of sufficient size for offshore wind development, while avoiding ecologically sensitive areas and multiple-use conflicts. The North Carolina lease area, designated OCS-A 0508, begins about 24 nautical miles from shore and extends 25.7 nautical miles in a general southeast direction. Its seaward extent ranges from 13.5 nautical miles in the north to 0.6 nautical mile in the south (see Figure 1).
Using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s estimates of 3 MW per square kilometer, the lease area has a potential generating capacity of 1,486 MW, enough energy to power more than 500,000 homes, the BOEM said. The actual size of the wind energy project will be determined by the developer.
The lease will have a preliminary term of one year, during which the lessee may submit a Site Assessment Plan (SAP) to BOEM for approval. The SAP will describe the facilities (e.g., meteorological towers or buoys) a lessee plans to install or deploy for the assessment of the wind resources and ocean conditions of its commercial lease area.
Following approval of a SAP, the lessee will then have four and a half years to submit a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) to BOEM for approval. This plan will provide a detailed proposal for construction and operation of a wind energy project within the lease area. Once BOEM receives a COP, it will conduct an environmental review of the proposed project and reasonable alternatives. Public input will be an important part of BOEM’s review process. If BOEM approves the COP, the lessee will then have a term of 25 years to construct and operate the project.
“Avangrid Renewables has a proven track record of clean energy development, with approximately 6.5 gigawatts of wind, solar, and other renewable generation facilities in service or under development in 20 U.S. states,” said James P. Torgerson, CEO of AVANGRID, Inc. “Between our leading position in the United States, including North Carolina, where we operate a wind farm near Elizabeth City, along with the expertise and experience of our international affiliate, Iberdrola Group, in developing offshore wind in Europe, we felt we were well positioned to secure this bid.”
In February, Avangrid Renewables announced that the first commercial-scale wind farm in North Carolina — Amazon Wind Farm US East — reached full commercial operation. The onshore facility features 104 wind turbines that will produce enough energy to power the equivalent of approximately 61,000 U.S. homes each year.