June 17, 2020
Mike Hughlett and Brooks Johnson
Xcel Energy to tackle $3B worth of projects earlier than planned; Minnesota Power will spend $40M on new solar arrays.
Xcel Energy would accelerate nearly $3 billion in spending, particularly on large renewable-energy projects, in response to calls from state utility regulators to jolt Minnesota’s economy from its coronavirus-induced lethargy.
Xcel’s proposal Wednesday calls for a new solar plant in Becker that would be at least four times larger than Minnesota’s current largest solar array. Also, Xcel would speed up plans to “repower” four older wind farms with new turbines and other new equipment.
“We tried to put together a sizable proposal,” said Christopher Clark, Xcel’s president for Minnesota and the Dakotas. “The wind and solar are really the biggest pieces.”
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in early May requested that the state’s electric and gas utilities explain how they could “assist in Minnesota’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Also in response to the PUC, Duluth-based Minnesota Power on Wednesday announced plans to triple its solar capacity with three new arrays around northern Minnesota, a $40 million investment.
“If there are investments that utilities could make that can boost the economy without burdening their customers, that would be good,” said Annie Levenson-Falk, head of the rate payer watchdog group Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota.
However, she said, “We have to take a look at the details of what is being proposed.”
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