Xcel Energy Sherco Expansion Triples Its Upper Midwest Solar


The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved Xcel Energy’s expansion of the Sherco Solar project, which will soon become one of the biggest solar projects in the United States.

The project is a key element of Xcel Energy’s clean energy transition and will help the company triple the amount of solar on its Upper Midwest system by 2028.

The unanimous vote paves the way for 710 MW of solar generation near the existing Sherco coal plant in Becker, Minn., by adding a 250 MW array to the 460 MW currently under construction. All phases of the project are expected to be complete by the end of 2025, replacing the capacity of the Sherco plant’s first coal unit that is scheduled to retire later this year.

The solar portfolio approved by the commission also includes a plan to purchase power from the 100 MW Apple River solar project in northwestern Wisconsin, which will be one of the largest solar projects in Wisconsin.

Sherco Solar’s 710 MW capacity will generate enough electricity to power more than 150,000 homes a year on average across the company’s Upper Midwest system. Solar energy does not have any fuel costs and contributes to a diversified energy mix, which helps protect against rising fuel prices. Xcel Energy expects to qualify for federal tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act on Sherco Solar’s energy production, helping customers save money.

The newly approved expansion represents an additional investment of $406 million from Xcel Energy, bringing the company’s total investment in the Sherco Solar project to more than $1 billion. Last fall, the PUC approved the initial phases of the project, and construction began in late April.

Xcel Energy is building the Sherco Solar arrays adjacent to the existing Sherco plant, allowing the company to reuse the facility’s existing grid connections. That will provide customers with power in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

The projects will help meet Xcel Energy customers’ energy needs as the company transitions from coal. The company plans to retire all of its coal units by the end of 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 the company expects to accomplish this again at the Sherco facility.

The project will provide economic benefits in Becker and the surrounding area. Sherco Solar will provide nearly 400 union construction jobs. The project will use Xcel Energy’s Power Up workforce and development program, designed to integrate women and people of color who are underrepresented in the utility industry and building trades.

Xcel Energy’s latest solar portfolio also includes a 20-year agreement to purchase power from the Apple River solar project being developed by National Grid Renewables in Polk County, Wis. The Apple River project will create an estimated 150 union construction jobs, plus $19 million in payments to landowners and $4 million in payments to local governments over the 20 years of the agreement.

Xcel Energy selected the Apple River and Sherco Solar projects after a competitive bidding process, and the company plans to seek additional solar resources in the coming years.

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