BOULDER - Xcel Energy Inc. has saved an estimated $17 million in energy costs by using a new energy-forecast software product developed in collaboration with Boulder-based Global Weather Corp.

Global Weather Corp. said Wednesday that Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL) now has used the WindWX energy-forecast service for a full year. Xcel saved about $7.8 million in 2011 alone, the two companies said. Forecasts are designed to help utilities such as Xcel make decisions about when to use less power from existing power plants when sufficient winds are forecast, the companies said.

Xcel paid about $5 million to develop the service in connection with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, said Mark Stutz, an Xcel spokesman. The forecasts for a 168-hour period are provided every 15 minutes for all of Xcel Energy's service territory, from its headquarters in Minneapolis, to Colorado's mountains and the coast of Texas, the companies said.

"It's modeling to the point where we can better meet the demands of customers," Stutz said.

Global Weather Corp. was founded in 2009 as a National Center for Atmospheric Research technology-transfer company by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research Foundation. NCAR and UCAR are federal labs based in Boulder. Global Weather Corp. has 10 employees and is privately held, said Mark Flolid, its chief executive.

The company has other utility customers in the United States and Europe, Flolid said. Xcel receives royalties from other customers' use of the product. Off-site "hosting centers" are located in Louisville and Denver, he said.