The flat, windy fields around the central Minnesota city of Becker are mostly used to grow potatoes and corn.
But if Xcel Energy has its way, it will soon reap a different year-round crop — power generated by the sun.
For decades, the state’s largest power plant — the Sherburne County Generating Station, known as Sherco — has provided the Upper Midwest with electricity. It’s also delivered jobs and tax revenue to Becker.
But growing climate concerns and the falling price of renewable energy are prompting utilities to shutter coal plants.
Xcel plans to close all three of Sherco’s coal units by 2030. It wants to replace a portion of that electricity with a 460-megawatt solar project that would cover about 3,200 acres just outside of Becker.