For years, we’ve incorporated renewables – primarily wind and solar – into our energy supply. I am proud that the American Wind Energy Association announced this morning that Xcel Energy is once again the nation’s No. 1 utility wind energy provider – for the 12th consecutive year.
We added four wind farms to our system last year and set a record for wind generation on October 2, 2015, when 54 percent of our Colorado customers’ power for an entire day came from wind energy. At the end of 2015, wind power – 6,560 megawatts of it, or enough energy to power approximately 3 million homes for a year – accounted for nearly 17 percent of our energy mix. By 2020, that will grow to 22 percent of our mix as we continue to build more wind farms and purchase additional wind power from third-party suppliers, locking in favorable prices under long-term contracts.
Despite near historically low natural gas prices, we can now build new wind supply cheaper than we can buy natural gas, keeping prices low for our customers. Our latest wind project, The Courtenay Wind Farm in central North Dakota, is scheduled to come online before the end of the 2016 with capacity to power 105,000 homes. Local communities also benefit from transmission line investments needed to deliver wind energy to the marketplace. These large projects that connect wind farms to the energy grid strengthen the economy through expanded tax base and new jobs. Whenever possible, we hire local contractors and suppliers to maximize the positive financial impact on our communities.
One of the many benefits of renewable energy like wind and solar is that they don’t emit carbon into the atmosphere like traditional coal-fueled plants and, to a lesser extent, natural gas generating stations. Of course, the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, so companies like ours need to develop a diverse energy mix.
As one of the country’s largest clean energy providers, we take our environmental responsibility very seriously. The Environmental Protection Agency recently presented us with a Climate Leadership Award for reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent (from 2005 levels) – six years ahead of schedule. We also work very hard to encourage our customers to take advantage of a wide variety of energy efficiency programs that give them greater control over their energy use. These programs, increasing our renewable energy mix and reducing our emissions by retiring aging coal-fueled plants and replacing them with cleaner natural gas facilities, are all part of a strategy that will take Xcel Energy well into the future.
We are investing millions of dollars to incorporate renewable energy sources into our energy mix, but not just because of regulatory changes. Our customers are increasingly interested in cleaner energy solutions and we can provide them while keeping costs competitive – and without losing sight of safety or reliability, the hallmark of our service for more than 100 years.