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Xcel Energy plans big wind buy in Midwest

is looking tomake a big investment in new wind generation in the Midwest.

Theutility issued a request for proposals Sept. 22 for up to 1,500 MW of windprojects that can interconnect to Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota,Wisconsin and Michigan by the end of 2020. The solicitation, aimed at takingadvantage of attractive pricing after Congress the wind production tax creditlate last year, is part of a broader strategy to get 63% of the energy thecompany delivers from "carbon-free resources" within 15 years.

"This is a great valuefor our customers," Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy's utilityoperations in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said in a news release."We're pursuing proposals now to take full advantage of low wind priceswhich means we can expand our wind energy portfolio at an extremely competitivecost."

Xcel Energy is askingdevelopers to submit bids for power purchase agreements as well asbuild-own-transfer proposals so that it can decide whether contracted or ownedassets offer a better value. Projects must have nameplate generating capacitiesof at least 75 MW. Bids are due by Oct. 25.Selections are to be made Dec. 8.

The solicitation was issuedby Northern States Power Co. as part of its 2016-2030 Upper Midwest ResourcePlan. Xcel Energy's Upper Midwest utilities are known legally as and Northern States Power Co. - Wisconsin.

"[It's] always worthremembering that we have some of the finest wind resources right in ourbackyard, and that's from Minnesota all the way down to Texas," XcelEnergy Chairman, President and CEO Benjamin Fowke III said on an earnings conference call in August."And it works so well … because you basically are buying wind at a pricepoint less than you could lock in natural gas reserves. So that's a prettycompelling story for customers and, I think, investors alike."

The production tax credit,which pays $23 per MWh that a wind farm generates, is scheduled to drop invalue before expiring in 2020. Projects that start construction in 2019 will beeligible for credits worth 40% of their current value.