US presidential candidate Donald Trump has trash-talked his own country’s up-and-coming wind energy industry all through the 2016 campaign, but it doesn’t look like the gigantic energy services company Xcel got the memo. Last week Xcel announced that it is looking for 1,500 megawatts in new wind energy capacity to pump into a massive midwestern transmission system that serves 15 US states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.
What Is MISO?
The transmission system that will benefit from all this new wind energy activity is managed by the organization MISO, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator. MISO came into being in 2001 as the nation’s first independent transmission organization.
Independent system operators are sanctioned by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to provide a platform for competitive electricity markets, long term regional planning, and grid reliability — so of course, wind energy is at the top of MISO’s to do list.
As early as 2012, MISO was reporting a peak, record-setting wind energy output of 10,012 megawatts.
Here’s a rundown on the current status of the MISO transmission system:
Total wind capacity in the MISO footprint has grown dramatically since 2006. Driven by the nation’s desire for cleaner energy and state mandates for renewable energy portfolios, MISO now manages more than 11,000 MW of wind generation in service, with more than 7,000 MW of projects advancing through the interconnection requirements.
MISO’s aggressive pursuit of wind energy probably factored into Xcel’s decision to go big. Those 1500 megawatts reportedly come with a price tag of $2 billion.
That doesn’t top Warren Buffett’s $3.6 billion investment in new wind energy projects for Iowa, but it’s right up there in the big leagues.
Another factor is the federal production tax credit for wind energy. It’s a rather modest perk in contrast to the longstanding taxpayer subsidies provided to coal, petroleum and natural gas, but certain members of Congress (you know who you are) have fought against it tooth and nail.
The tax credit is set to expire by 2020, so the rush is on for energy companies like Xcel to take advantage of the good times while they last.
More Wind Energy For The US Midwest
So far, Xcel’s new wind energy plan is in the RFP (request for proposals) stage, but the company has set a pretty tight timeline. The final deadline for bid submissions is October 25, and winning bids will be selected by December 8.
Xcel expects to complete contract negotiations within the first quarter of next year, and it expects that participating companies will have their projects online and interconnected with MISO by the end of 2020.
If you’re in the wind business, MISO is looking for this:
Each RFP Project must have a nameplate electric rating greater than or equal to 75 MW. A project will be defined as a complete, commercially operable, wind powered electric generating plant, including all facilities necessary to generate and deliver energy into MISO at a single point of interconnection by the expected online date.
Specifically, Xcel wants projects that interconnect in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota or South Dakota. These states host generating facilities and/or customers of the Xcel subsidiary Northern States Power Companies.
Donald Trump And Wind Energy
Speaking of Donald Trump and wind energy, the candidate’s impressively detailed “America First” energy plan does not explicitly call for an end to the US wind industry.
However, Trump has regularly espoused the belief that the wind industry is not competitive, so it’s a safe bet that as President he would not be a particularly source-agnostic steward of the nation’s energy resources.
We’re also wondering why, out of the plethora of America-centric slogans available to any presidential aspirant who wants to slap a catchy title on his or her national energy policy, Trump settled on the one deployed by famed aviator and notorious anti-Semite Charles Lindburgh in the 1930’s to advocate against American intervention in World War II.
Meanwhile, it looks like Xcel is not the only US energy company ignoring Donald Trump. Last week, the American Wind Energy Association had this to say about the current state of the industry:
…With the long-term extension of the PTC [Production Tax Credit] wind power will continue driving down its costs, which further incentivizes utilities and corporate buyers to continue investing in this homegrown clean energy source. This will also provide manufacturers with the market certainty needed to continue ramping up, adding jobs. Wind is partying and the party is just getting started.
Image: Courtesy of Xcel Energy.