Minnesota regulators on Wednesday approved Xcel Energy’s $750 million wind farm “repowering” project, one of several proposals from the utility to help speed up the state’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
Xcel, the state’s largest utility, said its plan to retool several existing wind farms will save ratepayers $160 million through efficiency gains. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) unanimously agreed, though the Minnesota Department of Commerce opposed Xcel’s plan.
Xcel’s project involves rebuilding wind-power plants with new technology and bigger blades that will extend their life spans by about 10 years.
The project primarily involves four larger wind farms in southern Minnesota, which together have the power generation capacity of 651 megawatts. That’s about the same capacity as a large coal generator, except that wind power is variable.
The wind repowerings will occur at Xcel’s wind farms in Grand Meadow and Pleasant Valley Township in Mower County; Nobles Township in Nobles County; Ewington Township in Jackson County; and Pleasant Valley Township in Rolette County, N.D. All but the Ewington wind farm, by far the smallest of the bunch, are directly owned by Xcel.
Grand Meadow and Nobles went online respectively in 2008 and 2010; North Dakota’s Pleasant Valley and Border Winds in 2015. Once repowered, the life spans of those four wind farms will be extended from 2043 to 2049.