Minnesota's largest solar project moves forward
Xcel Energy will move forward to build Minnesota’s largest-ever solar project at the Sherco plant site in Becker, as it transitions away from using coal at the site in the coming years. On Sept. 15, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission provided the final approvals needed for Sherco Solar, which is a key component of Xcel Energy’s plans to nearly triple the amount of solar on its Upper Midwest system by 2028.
In addition to being the largest single solar development in Minnesota, the Upper Midwest and among the largest in the United States, Sherco Solar will provide clean energy while also being the lowest-cost solar on Xcel Energy’s Upper Midwest system. The 460-megawatt project will generate enough electricity to power an average of 100,000 homes each year, and the project will help keep costs low for customers because solar energy does not have any fuel costs.
Sherco Solar also will create jobs and investment in the Becker community as the Sherco coal plant is retired in the coming years. The solar project will serve as a direct replacement for most of the capacity of the first coal unit retiring at Sherco.
“We are pleased to move forward with the Sherco Solar project,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy–Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. “We know it will be a key component to meet our customers’ energy needs as we transition away from coal and closer to our vision to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.”
The Sherco Solar project will support the creation of approximately 900 well-paying, union construction jobs. It also is uniquely positioned to support the recently approved Workforce Training and Development program, called Xcel Energy’s Power Up program, which is designed to integrate historically marginalized communities into the energy workforce. Program participants will have the opportunity to participate in the project beginning in Summer 2023.
Xcel Energy has transitioned other Minnesota coal plants without laying off employees, and will work with employees, communities and other stakeholders to manage the coal plant’s transition through attrition, retirements and retraining.
“We would like to thank the City of Becker and our labor partners for their support for the Sherco Solar project,” Clark said. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with state and local communities to bring new jobs and capital investments as the Sherco coal units retire and the Sherco Solar project moves forward.”
In August 2022, Xcel Energy issued a Request for Proposals for solar and storage projects to procure 900 megawatts of additional solar capacity to be online by the end of 2025. The first phase of the Sherco Solar project will be completed in 2024 and the second phase in 2025.