Xcel windfarms reduce fuel costs, outperform during winter storm

Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 10:20 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Xcel customers paid for wind farms that were completed in 2019. Now, customers are reaping the benefits with lower bills, and an excess of power during last week’s winter storm.

Wind erratic, so the power produced is not reliable, but experts say West Texas is a sweet spot, where wind produces 40% of the region’s average power annually.

One farm is located south of Plainview, another in New Mexico.

In total, they have a capacity of 1k megawatts, which is a lot considering peak demand is 6k megawatts.

“Wind is really beneficial for us economically, in that we’re not paying any fuel costs,” Wes Reeves with Xcel said.

Reeves said customers paid for the wind farm to be built, but the fuel cost savings are greater than the costs to operate the farms.

“Wind is helping us lower those fuel costs, which helps kind of tamp down the overall increases that we’ve seen over the last few years. Power costs have gone up, but not as high as they would have had we not had the wind on the system,” Reeves said.

Customers will notice a price increase as Xcel rebuilds power lines or new substations necessary to provide power, but wind offsets the cost by providing free power.

“There has been some misconception when the public sees us building these wind farms. So that’s making my bill go up. Well, technically, that’s helping bring it down. These other costs are definitely there, but they’re also very needed, because we have to update our infrastructure in order to keep up with growth in the region,” Reeves said.

Customers also benefit from federal production tax credits.

Typically, an abundance of wind is produced in the spring, but wind performed exceptionally during last week’s winter storm.

Last Wednesday, 60% of the power in your home came from wind. It tapered down each day but remained above average.

Wind forecasters knew in advance they would not need to purchase as much fuel for freezing temperatures.

“That gives us a better idea about how much natural gas we’re going to need to take from the pipeline. And it helps with the cost because we’re not buying something we don’t need, if we know the wind is going to be there tomorrow,” Reeves said.

People were concerned when wind turbines iced up and failed to perform during last year’s winter storm, but Reeves says their forecasters knew not to rely too much on wind. This year, forecasters knew it would blow away fuel costs.

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