Xcel Energy is seeking approval to add a new 250 MW solar project near the existing Sherco plant site in Becker, Minnesota. This expansion contributes to Xcel Energy’s clean energy goals and complements the ongoing construction of the 460 MW Sherco Solar project, making it the largest solar development in the Upper Midwest. The combined capacity of the three projects, totaling 710 MW, will replace the retiring coal unit at the Sherco plant. Additionally, Xcel Energy plans to purchase power from the 100 MW Apple River solar project in Wisconsin.
The Sherco Solar project is a crucial part of Xcel Energy’s strategy to significantly increase solar capacity in the Upper Midwest by 2028. With a capacity to power over 150,000 homes annually, solar energy offers cost savings, fuel price stability, and a diversified energy mix. Xcel Energy expects to leverage federal tax credits to make the construction more affordable, ultimately benefiting customers.
Xcel Energy will develop, own, and operate the third Sherco Solar array, building upon the approval received for the first two projects. By utilizing the existing grid connections at the Sherco plant, Xcel Energy ensures efficient and cost-effective power delivery to customers during the transition away from coal. This initiative aligns with Xcel Energy’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 85% from customers’ electricity in the Upper Midwest by 2030 and retiring all coal units by 2030.
The Sherco site is integral to Xcel Energy’s vision of achieving 100% clean energy in Minnesota by 2040. The proposed Minnesota Energy Connection transmission line will facilitate the integration of at least 2,000 MW of renewable energy into the grid at Sherco. Moreover, the company is pursuing state approval for a long-duration battery storage pilot project at the facility.
In addition to environmental benefits, these solar projects will stimulate the local economy. If approved, the third Sherco Solar array is expected to create approximately 95 union construction jobs, while the first two projects have already generated 300 construction jobs and 18 ongoing operations and maintenance jobs. Xcel Energy’s Power Up workforce and development program will promote diversity and inclusion by integrating women and underrepresented individuals into the utility industry and building trades.
Xcel Energy remains committed to supporting its employees during the transition, as demonstrated in previous coal plant retirements where layoffs were avoided. If approved, the third Sherco Solar array will generate an estimated $110 million in payments to landowners and local taxes, while the total economic benefits from the first two solar projects are estimated to reach $240 million. Xcel Energy is also actively collaborating with state and local communities to attract new jobs and investments to areas affected by coal plant retirements.
Furthermore, Xcel Energy is proposing a 20-year power purchase agreement for the Apple River solar project in Wisconsin. Developed by National Grid Renewables, this project will create around 150 union construction jobs and provide significant payments to landowners and local governments throughout the agreement's duration.