Minnesota is becoming a major player in the renewable energy market. Recently the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) unanimously approved Xcel Energy’s 15-year energy plan, which would add 1.4 gigawatts of solar power and 1.8 gigawatts of wind power to the state by 2030.
Under the plan the utility plans to send 2 units of its Sherco coal-fired power plant in Becker, MN, to early retirement, replacing their generation with 1,000 megawatts of wind as soon as 2019 and 650 megawatts of solar by 2021. A majority of the new solar power will come from community solar projects.
Xcel already is working to expand its solar portfolio and not just through community solar. In July 2016 it signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with the 100-megawatt North Star Solar Project. The solar farm, when completed, will be the largest solar project in the Midwest and one of the largest solar farms in the US.
"The state approved the lowest-cost plan--affordable, reliable, low carbon--in approving Xcel's proposal to replace coal with clean energy. All Xcel customers will benefit from this clean pathway forward," said J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director at Fresh Energy.
Under Xcel’s integrated resource plan (IRP) the utility aims to produce 40 percent of its energy from renewables and reduce its greenhouse emissions by 60 percent. It will help Minnesota achieve its annual 1.5 percent energy savings goal through 2030. It also creates a template for Xcel for the cost-effective retiring of additional coal burning power plants and nuclear power producing facilities.
"Getting this much coal out of our electricity system is going to be a great thing for Minnesotans. I'm extremely pleased with the PUC's decision, because it recognizes the importance of moving off of coal as quickly as possible for our health, our climate, and our economy; and we can start planning right now for this major transition," said Leigh Currie, Energy Program Director and Staff Attorney at MCEA, who represented clean energy interests at the Public Utilities Commission.
Cooperation between state regulatory agencies and major utilities over the last couple of years has laid significant groundwork for Minnesota’s progress toward sustainable energy production. As a positive alternative to net-metering, the state PUC set precedence in 2014 by agreeing to a regulatory tariff that established a method to estimate solar power’s social and economic value to the grid in order to fairly credit solar producers for their power output.Tweet