AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - For 12 years Xcel Energy has transmitted more wind energy through its transmission system than any other provider in the country.
When they first won this award over a decade ago, wind energy was a requirement to invest in. It has since become one of the cheapest methods to supply electricity to customers in the panhandle.
On average, 22 percent of the energy supplied by Xcel in the area is generated by wind. More wind farms are being built and additional turbines should increase this average. However, there are limitations to this source of energy.
"You integrate wind in because it is not a resource you can just push a button and say I want 50 megawatts of wind," said Wes Reeves with Xcel Energy. "We have to wait for the wind to come on and because the energy is used as soon as it's generated we have to keep everything in balance."
Xcel uses natural gas to compensate for calmer days. The company is able to increase or decrease production at a moments notice depending on current wind conditions.
Switching back and forth between wind and natural gas may seem expensive, but by adding more turbines, Xcel can reduce generating costs by $2.8 billion over the next 30 year. This will be directly reflected on monthly energy bills.
"When we make electricity with coal or natural gas the customers are paying for the fuel cost," said Reeves. "That is about a third of your monthly bill. With wind there is no fuel cost and so it is actually helping to hold down costs."