Is Xcel's top spot in wind power in jeopardy?

  • Article by: DAVID SHAFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 11, 2013 - 6:57 AM

An Iowa utility owned by Warren Buffett-led Berkshire Hathaway plans to add 656 wind turbines by the end of 2015.

 

Xcel Energy is facing competition to maintain its long-standing position as the nation’s No. 1 utility when it comes to harnessing wind power.

MidAmerican Energy Company’s announcement this week that it will add 1,050 megawatts of wind generation in Iowa through 2015 could propel the Des Moines-based company ahead of Xcel in wind power, industry data show.

Xcel had 4,897 megawatts of wind capacity at the end of 2012. MidAmerican Energy Holdings, which also owns West Coast utility PacifiCorp., was No. 2 with 4,295 megawatts, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group. A megawatt equals 1 million watts.

Xcel has ranked No. 1 for nine years. Whether it stays on top could hinge on how much new wind power the Minneapolis-based utility adds in the next three years. It is evaluating up to 200 megawatts of added wind power in the Midwest, and unspecified amounts in its Colorado and Texas regions.

Xcel spokeswoman Mary Sandok said the company has received “a number of very interesting offers” to build wind farms in all three regions. “We don’t yet have an estimate of how many megawatts of wind power may be added companywide this year,” she said in an e-mail.

Tina Potthoff, a spokeswoman for MidAmerican, said the company is not predicting where it might land in the national ranking. The $1.9 billion in new MidAmerican wind farms would increase the share of power that the Iowa utility generates from wind to 39 percent, she said.

“We are very excited about that,” Potthoff added.

MidAmerican is owned by Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway, which is led by veteran investor Warren Buffett. Unlike Xcel, which mostly buys power from wind farms owned by others, MidAmerican owns most of its wind generation.

David Shaffer • 612-673-7090 • @ShafferStrib

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