Xcel coal plants produced more electricity during several hours of polar vortex than MISO wind fleet

There is currently a comment period at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for Xcel Energy’s plan to close their coal plants a decade before the end of their useful lifetimes and replace these reliable, affordable power plants with a combination of wind turbines, solar panels, and natural gas power plants.

American Experiment has been vocal about our belief that this plan is bad for the reliability and affordability of Minnesota’s electric grid because it makes us more dependent upon some of the least reliable sources of electricity when we need the power the most.

The graph below shows that there were several hours when Xcel’s coal plants, the Sherburne County Generating Station (Sherco) and the Allen S. King plants were generating more electricity, on average, than all of the wind installed on the regional electric grid, the Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator (MISO), combined.

This should never happen because Xcel’s coal fleet has an installed capacity of only 2,749 megawatts (MW) of capacity and there are 22,040 MW of installed wind capacity in the MISO footprint, meaning there is eight times more wind capacity on the MISO grid than Xcel’s coal capacity, but it was producing less than half of the electricity that Sherco and Allan S. King were providing to the grid when we needed the electricity most.

Xcel Energy and renewable energy special interest groups are pushing hard on the PUC to approve this plan to prematurely retire the coal plants, but this would put Minnesota’s electric grid at risk of the types of rolling blackouts experienced in the Southwest Power Pool during the Polar Vortex.

Given the rising natural gas prices discussed yesterday, the most sensible and prudent thing the PUC can do is delay a decision on the coal plant closure until a later date.