(Editor’s Note: The following article was submitted by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission).
Last Thursday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved Xcel Energy’s Sherco Solar Project.
The 460-megawatt (MW) plant, located in Clear Lake Twp. and Becker Twp. in Sherburne County, will be the largest solar facility in the upper Midwest. Last month the commission approved the site permit for the two-parcel facility, and last week found the project to be a cost-effective resource for the company to acquire and build.
The Sherco Solar Project was broadly supported in last week’s proceeding by surrounding communities, local workers who will build the new facility, farmers who will host the solar project on their land, and clean energy and environmental justice advocates. Tax revenue from the project will assist in economic development of the region as Xcel closes the first of its three coal-powered units at the Sherco Generating Plant over the next seven years.
Highlights reflected in the record include:
• The creation of 900 construction jobs (with an estimated $115 million in wages) over the next three years;
• A reduction in carbon emissions by nearly 300,000 tons annually;
• A price cap that will protect customers, and assurance that the related Inflation Reduction Act provisions will be passed along to customers reducing the overall consumer price upwards of 30 percent;
• Approximately $240 million in local economic benefit generated over the life of the project;
• Implementation of Xcel’s Workforce Development and Training Program – providing pathways for workers into the energy sector from underrepresented communities.
“This project is widely supported, and it’s one that I am excited to see pass, “said Commissioner Joe Sullivan. “I know how important these projects are to smaller communities and I applaud Xcel for not simply closing a plant and walking away from the community.”
Chair Katie Sieben recognized the work it took to bring Sherco Solar into fruition.
“By investing in this huge solar energy project now, Minnesotans will see the benefits of a cost-effective resource that will reduce pollution and provide reliable service in the future. Sherco Solar is one of the most important renewable energy projects in Minnesota’s history and I’m proud of the collaborative work by so many.”
The 460 MW Sherco Solar Project will consist of an East and West Block located on approximately 3,500 acres of land adjacent to Xcel’s existing, coal-powered Sherburne County Generating Facility. The solar facility will connect to the electrical grid at the existing Sherburne County Substation by a new 1.7-mile single-circuit 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission line for the East Block and a new 3.2-mile single-circuit 345 kV transmission line for the West Block. Xcel expects that all components of the Project (the solar project and the transmission lines) can be in-service in the fourth quarter of 2025, with the first phase being placed in-service in the fourth quarter of 2024.
About the PUC
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission regulates three cornerstone service industries in Minnesota’s economy: electricity, natural gas and telephone. The Commission’s mission is to create and maintain a regulatory environment that ensures safe, adequate and efficient utility services at fair, reasonable rates consistent with State telecommunications and energy policies. It does so by providing independent, consistent, professional and comprehensive oversight and regulation of utility service providers. Learn more at mn.gov/puc.