In a move that involves replacing some existing coal-fired electric generation units, Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy said Monday it proposes to add up to 645 MW of natural gas-fired peaking generation in Minnesota and North Dakota by 2019.

The proposal to add up to three gas-fired peakers was submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) as part of Xcel’s latest Upper Midwest Resource Plan. In the PUC proceedings on that plan it was concluded that the utility operations in the north needed to add at least 150 MW of resources in 2017 and up to another 350 MW by 2019.

Xcel said despite forecasts for its overall growth in power usage to remain basically flat, resource planning efforts have identified a need for more diversity and some new resources for availability at peak usage times.

Implementation would come from Xcel’s Northern States Power Co. (NSP) — Minnesota utility, one of several it operates across eight states. Regulators in both Minnesota and North Dakota will review Xcel’s proposals and compare them with ones from other parties before determining which are the best deals for retail utility customers.

Xcel is proposing first to place a 215 MW combustion turbine in service in 2017 at its Black Dog plant in Burnsville, MN, replacing the plant’s coal-fired capacity, which is scheduled to be retired in 2015.

“This would allow us to use existing buildings and transmission lines, and also would reinforce generation with the Twin Cities, which enhances reliability,” said NSP CEO Judy Poferl.

The other two new gas-fired turbines, 215 MW each, would be slated for Hankinson, ND, Xcel said. The units would be placed in service separately in 2018 and 2019 at a site about 70 miles south of Fargo. “These units would take advantage of nearby natural gas and electrical transmission lines,” an Xcel spokesperson said.

As a filing was made to the Minnesota PUC for the proposed Burnsville unit, Xcel also made a filing with the North Dakota Public Service Commission for the two proposed units in that state. The company noted this was one of its first resource requests in the two states in many years that did not involve wind energy. Separately, however, Xcel will be proposing additional wind power in the two states.

Poferl said the gas-fired proposal responds to customer need “for power that can be brought online quickly and efficiently to meet demand when it’s highest.”

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