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Xcel Energy cites large Colo. wind project in advancing 345-kV line's start

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Xcel Energy cites large Colo. wind project in advancing 345-kV line's start

officials haveasked Colorado regulators to move up the allowed in-service date of atransmission line approved in 2015, saying the line is necessary for theutility to make full use of a planned large wind energy facility.

TheColorado Public Utilities Commission approvedconstruction of the 115-mile, 345-kV Pawnee-Daniels Park line in April 2015.Xcel Energy, legally known in Colorado as Public Service Co. of Colorado, originally requested anin-service date of 2019 but the PUC accepted an administrative law judge'srecommendation that construction not begin until May 1, 2020, because theutility had not shown a need for the line until 2023.

InMay, Xcel Energy proposedthe construction of a two-part wind farm, collectively called Rush Creek,totaling 600 MW to be in service by Oct. 31, 2018. The project consists of a400-MW unit, Rush Creek WindFarm I, in Elbert County, Colo., and a 200-MW unit, , spreadout over several counties in the Eastern Plains area of the state, connected bya 90-mile, 345-kV "gen-tie" transmission line. The estimated cost ofthe project is slightly more than $1 billion.

Havingthe Pawnee-Daniels Park line in service by Oct. 30, 2019, would enable XcelEnergy to provide its customers the lower-priced electricity from Rush Creeksooner as well as take full advantage of federal production tax credits, BettyMirzayi, the company's manager of transmission planning, West, said insupplemental testimony filed with the PUC July 8.

Networkupgrades are necessary to deliver the Rush Creek output to the grid as anetwork resource, Mirzayi said, because the current grid would experiencethermal constraints at multiple points if all of the Rush Creek output wereadded. The Pawnee-Daniels Park line would provide those network upgrades.

"Completionof the transmission line segments in 2019 will allow the full amount of RushCreek Project output to be injected as a network resource on Public Service'stransmission system," she said. "This will allow the company to takefull advantage of the production tax credit for customers and benefit allcustomers through allowing the full amount of lower priced energy to beinjected on to the system."

Intestimony filed with the PUC July 8, Xcel Energy's regional vice president forrates and regulatory affairs, Alice Jackson, explained the company's requestfor a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Rush Creekproject, saying it was a necessary component of the company's plan to meetcustomer expectations for increased energy supplies from renewable resources,federal environmental requirements and state renewable energy statutes. Itwould also reduce rates for customers and benefit the state's economy, Jacksonsaid.

XcelEnergy has asked the PUC for an expedited decision, noting that if constructionis underway prior to the end of this year, the company will be eligible for thefull 100% federal production tax credit. (Docket No. 16A-0117E)