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Minnesota regulators have approved Xcel Energy's proposal to add 750 MW of wind power capacity on the Upper Midwest grid.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) signed off on four projects, which represent a 42% increase in the company's wind power capacity in the region. Xcel says consideration by the North Dakota Public Service Commission is expected by the end of the year.

Dave Sparby, president and CEO of Northern States Power Co.-Minnesota, an Xcel Energy company, says, "Wind energy is a clean, low-cost substitute for natural gas and other fuels right now."

"With 1,800 MW of wind on our Upper Midwest system, we already are ahead of meeting state renewable energy targets," Sparby adds. "These four projects - which will provide enough power to serve about 200,000 homes - position us to continue to meet those targets while saving customers more than $225 million over the projects' lives."

The PUC approved the following projects:

- Courtenay Wind Farm, a 200 MW project near Jamestown, N.D., under a power purchase agreement with Geronimo Energy;

- Odell Wind Farm, a 200 MW project near Windom, Minn., also under a power purchase agreement with Geronimo Energy;

- Pleasant Valley, a 200 MW project near Austin, Minn., submitted by RES America Developments Inc. RES would develop the project and transfer ownership to Xcel Energy. The Pleasant Valley project is adjacent to the Grand Meadow wind project, which Xcel Energy owns; and

- Border Winds Project, a 150 MW project located in Rolette County in north central North Dakota, near the Canadian border. RES would also develop and transfer ownership of this project to Xcel Energy.

All four projects are scheduled to be in service by the end of 2015.

Combined with proposals in the company's Colorado and Texas/New Mexico service areas, Xcel Energy says it has proposed adding a total of 1.9 GW of wind resources this year, a 40% increase in company-wide wind capacity.

"Our system is better today because we continue to sensibly invest in a balanced portfolio of cleaner, modern technologies to meet our customers' needs," says Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. "These projects demonstrate that we can achieve both environmental and economic benefits for our customers."

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