Xcel Energy launches request for proposals to replace coal plant with solar and storage

Xcel Energy’s Riverside
power plant in Minnesota which was converted from coal to combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) in 2009. Credit: Xcel Energy

US electric utility Xcel Energy has launched a request for proposals (RFP) for solar and battery storage projects to replace its Allen S. King coal-fired power plant in the US state of Minnesota.

Xcel Energy is keen to replace the coal plant with a new 650MW solar project, or ones “that combine solar with energy storage, such as batteries”, as the utility puts it.

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The Allen S. King plant has produced electricity since 1958, and through the RFP, Xcel will replace this facility with a renewable project that will contribute to the company’s decarbonisation goals. These targets reducing its carbon emissions by 85% compared to 2005 levels by 2030, and retiring all of its coal-fired power plants by the same year.

The proposed solar project will also have a larger capacity than the soon-to-be retired coal plant, which boasts a capacity of 598MW, as Xcel Energy looks to not only replace its fossil fuel capacity with renewables, but increase its total power output.

“Adding solar along with projects that combine solar with energy storage strengthens our commitment to deliver carbon-free energy to customers in the states we serve,” said Karl Hoesly, president, Xcel Energy Wisconsin and Michigan. “It will play a vital role in our clean energy transition by reducing carbon emissions and will help our communities by creating jobs during and after construction.”

While Xcel Energy did not specify any further criteria for the new solar projects, nor a timeline following the launch of the RFP, it is eager to begin work quickly. The utility plans to begin commercial operations at the new project between 2027 and 2029, with the Allen S. King plant set to retire in 2028.

Xcel Energy also noted that the new renewable project will use existing grid connections at the coal facility, eliminating the need for new grid infrastructure to be built, and ideally accelerating the processes of permitting, construction and commissioning.

The utility plans to commission the project amid considerable growth in the Minnesota solar sector, with the US Solar Energy Industries Association reporting that the state had the 16th-most solar capacity installed in 2023, up from the 34th-most in 2022. There are currently 1.6GW of new solar projects in the pipeline, that the association expects to come online in the next five years, so whatever projects replace the Allen S. King coal plant will make up a considerable portion of the state’s energy mix.

The news follows Heliene’s plans to build a second manufacturing facility in Minnesota, as the company looks to build around 1GW of solar modules.

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