In a move exemplified by its recent coal plant smokestack demolition shown in Minnesota, XCEL has decided to retire two dirty coal power plants in Colorado, for its first utility scale solar concentrating powerplant and 850 megawatts of wind power.
XCEL is the 4th biggest electricity company in the US, and 60% of that has been coal fired electricity.
The power swap will be in Colorado, where the Democratic National Convention is being held this week. Colorado is an interestingly Brown/Green energy state where the possibility of scraping up the state for oil shale vies with new green energy sources. The Danish wind giant Vestas - which is in the incredibly fortunate position of having a $10 Billion dollar backlog of wind turbine orders is bringing a new wind turbine building plant to the state.
Interestingly, XCEL is not a member of USCAP the forward thinking climate change prevention group, as is PG&E and other greener utilities and corporations. In fact, when Colorado passed their first Renewable Portfolio Standard of 10% by 2015, XCEL dragged their heels. But it discovered in the process of complying that it wasn't that difficult: they hit their target in 2007. Now they support the current 20% by 2020 target.
The Washington Post attributes XCELs decision in part to the production tax credits wind farms have had:
Once Xcel executives began to come to terms with the new rules, they discovered that federal tax credits made wind power affordableAny new plant is going to be much more expensive to build than keeping an old one you already have on the books chugging along. So the PTC makes it affordable to build new green power plants.
However, as they do every few years, these production tax credits expire at the end of this year. Unfortunately, thanks in large part to swingvoter John McCain 'vetoing' cloture votes each time the Democrats have attempted to extend PTCs, this year they could fail to be renewed.
With the Democrats in Colorado at their convention this week getting some media time, this would be a good time for them to publicize the good that the PTC has done. While Clinton had offered the ideal plan with a permanent PTC, Obama offers a 5 year extension of the PTC in his plan. Obama is by far the greenest presidential contender. McCain has no plan posted and the voting record to back it up.
Photo by flikr user Bree R