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Business notebook: Xcel expands renewable research agreement

Xcel Energy announced this month that it expanded its agreement with the National Center for Atmospheric Research for sophisticated renewable energy forecasting.

The agreement with the Boulder, Colo.-based center extends an existing relationship that has saved Xcel Energy's 3.4 million electricity customers millions of dollars.

In the next two years, NCAR scientists and engineers will develop custom forecasting systems that will allow Xcel Energy control centers -- like the one in Minneapolis -- to anticipate sudden changes in wind, shut down turbines ahead of potentially damaging icing events and even predict the amount of energy generated by private solar panels.

"As our renewable energy portfolio continues to grow, accurate forecasts become increasingly important," said Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy.

The systems will help Xcel Energy provide reliable power to its customers and reduce costs while moving to greater use of wind and solar, he said.

"By creating more detailed and accurate forecasts of wind and sun, we can produce a major return on investment for utilities," said Thomas Bogdan, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, which manages NCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation. "This type of cutting-edge research helps make renewable energy more cost competitive."

NCAR began designing a wind energy prediction system for Xcel Energy in 2009 that saved the utility's customers more than $6 million in 2010 alone.

• John Hall and Alaska Cruises and Tours, based in Lake City, was presented with the Visit Anchorage's 2012 Tour Operator of the Year award April 13 at the 2012 Seymour Awards.

The award recognizes a community leaders, Visit Anchorage members or volunteers who have provided excellence in products or services, contributed significantly to the visitor industry and Visit Anchorage's programs or enhanced Anchorage's image as a visitor destination.

• Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing recently earned an A rating for patient safety from the Leapfrog Group, an independent national nonprofit run by employers and other large purchasers of health benefits.

"We continue to improve safety for our patients through ongoing learning, process change and our commitment to safety," said Paula Santrach, associate dean of value creation, Mayo Clinic.

Mayo Clinic hospitals in Phoenix and Jacksonville, Fla., also received A ratings, as did Mayo Clinic Health System hospitals in Rochester, La Crosse, Wis., and Austin, Minn., among others.

• Jay Greenberg, of Red Wing Chiropractic Clinic was recently awarded with the Minnesota's Chiropractic Association's Presidential Award for exemplary service.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.