Xcel Energy, an energy provider in the western and midwestern United States, has broken ground at the Sherco Solar project near Becker, Minn., which is expected to become the Upper Midwest’s largest solar array serving customers across the region.
The 460 MW project will provide enough clean energy to power 100,000 homes once complete in 2025. The project will serve as a carbon-free replacement for most of the capacity of the first coal unit retiring at the nearby Sherco plant.
“Sherco Solar is an important milestone on Xcel Energy’s path to nearly triple the amount of solar on our Upper Midwest system by 2028,” says Bob Frenzel, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. “This is one of the biggest solar projects in the country, and it demonstrates how we’re leading the clean energy transition reliably and affordably for our customers.”
Sherco Solar will provide the lowest-cost solar on Xcel Energy’s system in Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The project represents an investment of about $690 million in clean energy infrastructure. Sherco Solar will qualify for federal tax credits, making construction more affordable and reducing rate impacts to customers by upwards of 30%. The project will be built on two sites near the Sherco plant, allowing Xcel Energy to reuse the facility’s existing grid connections and provide customers with power in the most efficient and cost-effective way.
The project’s first phase, located in Clear Lake Township, will be completed in 2024. The second phase in Becker Township will follow in 2025.
The project will create 300 well-paying union construction jobs, with an emphasis on hiring women and people of color through Xcel Energy’s Power Up workforce and development program, designed to offer opportunities to people who are underrepresented in the utility industry and building trades. The project will also contribute an estimated $240 million in local economic benefits to the Becker community as the Sherco coal plant is retired in stages by 2030.
Xcel Energy is committed to a smooth transition for its employees at the Sherco plant, who have played a vital role in powering the region for decades. The company has transitioned other Minnesota coal plants without layoffs and expects to accomplish this again at the Sherco facility.