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Xcel partners with Vestas to build new wind farm in eastern Colorado

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By Lee Strubinger

Energy provider Xcel Energy Tuesday announced plans to build a 600-megawatt wind farm in eastern Colorado powered by Vestas turbines.

The wind turbines will be made at Vestas factories in Brighton, Windsor and Pueblo. Xcel president David Eves made the announcement at the Vestas plant in Brighton.

Xcel is working out final details of the wind farm project, which is expected to generate power for about 150,000 homes when it’s done.

“This is a project that will create hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for Colorado energy customers and will reduce our emissions by another 3 percent,” Eves said.

Eves said Congress’s extension of a 2.3-cent production tax credit for wind gives Xcel a short window to start construction on the new wind farm. The tax credit has been extended through the end of 2016. Eves said he hopes the turbines will start producing energy in 2018.

“We think it will be the lowest cost wind generation facility in Colorado on a levelized cost of energy basis,” Eves said.

Officials said they were still working with landowners on agreements and did not announce the exact location of the wind farm site. They said the project is expected to span several counties.

Vestas – Americas President Chris Brown said it’s important for Vestas to build turbines for Colorado. He called the project a “hell of a chunk of business for (Vestas).”

“For us, it’s great news,” Brown said. “The factory guys will be happy.”

Governor John Hickenlooper celebrated the workers at both Xcel Energy and Vestas at the announcement.

“For more than a decade, Xcel has been ranked the nation’s No. 1 wind energy provider by the American Wind Energy Association,” Hickenlooper said. “You couldn’t ask for a better partner in terms of trying to find cleaner air, but at the same time maintain flat or hopefully even lower consumer rates.”

Hickenlooper said Xcel is expected to exceed the state’s 30 percent renewable energy standard by 2020.

Hickenlooper praised the nearly 3,700-person strong workforce Vestas supports in Colorado. Vestas – Colorado workers make up nearly 20 percent of the company’s total number of workers in North America

“It’s no surprise that we in Colorado embrace the potential that wind energy brings,” Hickenlooper said. “Hopefully Colorado will be the tip of the spear of renewal energy development, with both abundant wind and abundant solar.”

The Xcel energy announcement came during a press conference to announce the growth of the wind industry in the United States. American wind power supported about 88,000 jobs across the country at the start of 2016, an increase of 20 percent from the year before, according to wind industry statistics.