Minnesota authorities approve Xcel Energy’s 250MW Sherco solar expansion plans

Xcel’s Sherco Solar plant will now have a total capacity of 710MW. Image: Xcel

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) has approved a plan submitted by Xcel Energy to expand its 250MW Sherco Solar project in the US state.

Xcel will make the addition to 460MW of generation capacity currently under construction at the project.

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The US electric utility first received permission from the MPUC in September 2022, and started construction in May this year. The initial plan involved the construction of two phases of the project, one in Clear Lake Township, which is expected to be completed in 2024, and one in Becker Township, which Xcel aims to finish in 2025, and the utility expects to complete work at the new third phase by the end of the same year.

“We thank the Commission, Minnesota Department of Commerce and labour partners for their support of our solar portfolio,” said Chris Clark, Xcel Energy president of Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota. “Sherco Solar will provide the lowest-cost solar on our Upper Midwest system, and these projects demonstrate our focus on clean energy without compromising affordability.”

Prior to the latest approval, the Sherco project was already the largest solar facility in Minnesota by capacity, and the MPUC’s latest approval will push the total capacity of the project to 710MW. Xcel invested US$406 million into this third phase, bringing its total investment into the project to over US$1 billion, and this project alone could significantly alter the Minnesotan energy mix.

According to the US Solar Energy Industries Association, the state had 1.8GW of capacity installed as of the second quarter of this year, and plans to double that over the next five years. This year, the state has the 17th-largest installed solar capacity among the 50 US states, up from the 34th-most in 2022, and Xcel’s continued expansion in the state will further this trend.

The expansion of the Sherco project is the latest development in Xcel’s long-standing plan to phase out its coal-fired electricity generation in the state, and replace it with solar power.

Earlier this year, the utility asked for proposals for new solar and storage facilities to replace its 598MW Allen S. King coal plant with a 650MW solar-plus-storage project, and when considered alongside its expansion of its Sherco project, there is significant potential for growth in the Minnesota solar sector.

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