The contract is a result of a solicitation for 80 MW of wind that Xcel, then Northern States Power (NSP), floated in June 2000 to fill the remaining block of wind energy it was mandated to build in exchange for a permit to store nuclear waste. NSP and New Century Energy of Colorado merged in August to form Xcel. By the end of 2001 the merged company expects to have more than 600 MW of wind on-line in five states -- Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico.
Excel's Rick Halet says the nine months it took to choose a contractor has as much to do with ensuring adequate transmission in the area as it has to do with evaluating each project. "The critical path was the cost estimates for transmission," he says. "The transmission system is full and we need to acquire more."
Halet adds, however, that the need for additional transmission was actually triggered early last year when Northern Alternative Energy out-competed other energy sources to win a contract to build 50 MW of wind together with 300 MW of small gas plant (Windpower Monthly, May 2000). Since then, Xcel has been improving transmission at Buffalo Ridge.
Chanarambie's proposal was chosen out of nine that covered four Midwest states, including two each in North and South Dakota, a northern Iowa project and four in Minnesota. Halet declines to name the other developers. He says the scoring criteria were based on price, transmission availability and project performance. The Minnesota legislature placed the 425 MW mandate on NSP in exchange for allowing the utility to store spent nuclear fuel in dry casks at its Prairie Island reactor. Recently, the state utility commission set a second mandate requiring NSP to develop 400 MW more of wind by 2012, but only if it is a least cost option.