Xcel Energy has unveiled plans for the largest solar-energy plant in Minnesota by far, a $575 million project in Becker adjacent to the company’s Sherco coal-power complex.
The Minneapolis-based company said the Sherco project would be among the lowest-cost solar power plants in the state; it’s economics will be enhanced by using existing transmission infrastructure at the Sherco coal plants.
The big solar farm, which must be approved by the PUC, would be built in 2022 to 2024. It would be developed jointly by Xcel and Edina-based National Grid Renewables, and Xcel would own and operate the plant.
National Grid Renewables is an arm of the British utility company National Grid, which in 2019 bought Edina-based Geronimo Energy — one of Minnesota’s most prominent renewable-energy developers — for $100 million.
The Sherco solar plant would have the capacity to produce 460 megawatts of electricity, roughly the same amount as Xcel’s Riverside gas-fired plant in northeast Minneapolis (although solar power is intermittent, gas is not). For perspective, Xcel’s largest single-site solar plant in Minnesota is the North Star project in Chisago County with 100 megawatts capacity. The company also draws power from a 62-megawatt solar farm near Marshall and the 100-megawatt Aurora project spread across 16 sites.
Xcel said the Sherco solar project is part of its plan to transition to 100% clean power by 2050. The solar plant would come online in 2024, the year Xcel plans to retire the first of three 680-megawatt coal-fired generators at Sherco. The last of the three would be shuttered in 2030.