Xcel backs $1.7b transmission plan to deliver solar and wind


Four electric power utilities are backing a $1.7 billion project to build 560 miles of transmission lines in the rural eastern part of Colorado to bring solar and wind to population centers that sprawl along the Front Range from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins.

The project is dubbed Power Pathway and likely would involve Xcel Energy, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Black Hills Energy, and the Platte River Power Authority.

The Solar Energy Industries Association said that Colorado ranked 13th in terms of installed solar capacity, with roughly 1,530 MW installed to date.

Xcel filed the proposal in early March with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, which will decide whether the project is needed and in the public interest.

In late February, Xcel released details on its proposed $8 billion Clean Energy Plan. The plan calls for cutting the utility’s carbon dioxide emissions 85% below 2005 levels by 2030. To reach that goal, Xcel said it plans to double its renewable energy portfolio in the state and stop using coal-fired generation by 2040.

The plan is in response to a 2019 Colorado state law that required regulated utilities to cut carbon emissions by 80% in the next 10 years.

Xcel’s plan calls for adding around 5,600 MW of new renewable and energy storage capacity. The mix includes 1,600 MW of large-scale solar projects, 400 MW of battery storage, and 2,300 MW of wind power. Another 1,300 MW of distributed solar, such as community solar gardens, would also be added.

By 2030, 80% of the electricity Xcel generates in Colorado would come from renewable sources, the company said.

The proposed 345 kv transmission lines would ring eastern Colorado, covering more than a dozen counties. If approved, the first segments could enter service by 2025.

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