Although it may seem like spring is still a distant dream, construction season will be here before we know it. While all that construction can be an inconvenience at times, I’m excited about a couple of projects that will bring more wind energy to North Dakota.
North Dakota is in the top 10 states in the country for the amount of wind energy we can produce. That means jobs for thousands of North Dakotans, with potential for more. According to the American Wind Energy Association, North Dakota is capitalizing on only about 10 percent of our available wind. But the wind industry in the state already supports at least 3,000 jobs.
At Xcel Energy, we’re working hard to ensure that all North Dakotans benefit from wind energy: good jobs and economic advantages, plus decades of affordable electricity thanks to free, clean fuel.
Over the next two years, you’ll see our wind plans in North Dakota really come to life. New wind farms in our state will mean an estimated $75 million in total landowner payments. We’ve always been committed to keeping our customers’ bills low, and we’re proud that the average electric bill for our North Dakota customers was 24 percent below the national average in 2017. Plus, our planned wind farms in the Upper Midwest will save North Dakota customers an estimated $74 million in fuel and other costs over the lives of the projects.
Wind power is a big part of the reason that Xcel Energy has reduced our carbon emissions by 38 percent from 2005 levels. That’s a big accomplishment, but we’re looking to do more. We plan to serve all customers with 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050.
As one of the country’s top producers of wind energy for more than a decade, we’ve already added significant amounts of clean energy to our system in North Dakota. In fact, the electricity that Xcel Energy customers use in North Dakota is about 60 percent carbon-free. New wind under construction right now is part of our plan to increase that number to 85 percent by 2030. And we haven’t sacrificed our award-winning reliable service to get there: Our customers, on average, have electricity service 99.98 percent of the time.
Getting to 100 percent carbon-free electricity sounds daunting, and we know that we can’t get there alone. We are already working with partners in North Dakota and around the country with the understanding that our goal of a carbon-free electricity system by 2050 relies on technologies that are not commercially available yet. To reach our 2050 aspiration, there must be more action around the research, innovation and demonstration of advanced technologies. That could include new options for energy storage, carbon-free sources like advanced nuclear or geothermal, or capturing carbon from existing fuel sources.
We have a long history of innovating in North Dakota. We are excited to be on thisenergy journey together, taking steps to reduce carbon emissions while growingjobs and tax base in our communities. We’re proud to help power the state’seconomy, now and into the future.
Nisbet is principal manager of Xcel Energy North Dakota