Minnesota regulators approve major solar, gas power plans

Minnesota utility regulators have authorized Xcel Energy to add over $500 million in solar and natural gas-fired generation capacity to its power portfolio.

As Minnesota faces the shutdown of its older coal-fired power plants, utility regulators have authorized over $500 million in new generation, according to the Star Tribune. The approvals pave the way for development of what will be the state's largest solar power project to date, and two utility-scale natural gas-fired ventures. Currently, Minnesota gets 46 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Minnesota's Public Utilities Commission has approved Xcel to purchase generation from the proposed $250 million Aurora Solar Project to be built by Geronimo Energy.  Solar panels for Aurora will be spread out among 20 Xcel locations, all of which are near existing substations to reduce the cost of adding new transmission lines. Geronimo must still acquire state permits for the Aurora installations, but estimates completion of the project by 2017.

Xcel has also been authorized to add over 550 MW of natural gas-fired capacity to its power portfolio through two planned projects – a new combined cycle gas-fired plant at Calpine’s Mankato Energy Center and new gas-fired units at Xcel’s Black Dog power plant. The estimated price of the two gas-fueled projects was not disclosed, but are expected to cost about $300 million and come online in 2018 or 2019, said the Star Tribune.

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