Xcel Energy seeking proposals for 1,200 MW of wind power at former coal plant

Published on October 24, 2023 by Dave Kovaleski

© Shutterstock

Xcel Energy is seeking proposals for approximately 1,200 megawatts of new wind projects, marking one of Minnesotaʻs largest ever calls for clean energy.

Specifically, Xcel Energy is seeking projects located in southwest Minnesota with a planned commercial operation date by the end of 2027. These new wind projects, along with solar and energy projects, will replace the capacity of the coal-fired Sherco plant in Becker, Minn. The coal unit at Sherco is set to retire later this year.

“Xcel Energy is a national leader in wind energy, which has saved our Upper Midwest customers $1.6 billion since 2017,” Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota, said. “Wind energy is abundant across the states we serve, and we’re excited to see developers’ proposals that will benefit our customers.”

The wind projects will generate enough power to run 485,000 homes each year on average. Further, it will accelerate the addition of carbon-free energy for the company’s Upper Midwest customers, as laid out in its Upper Midwest Integrated Resource Plan, which was approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in 2022.

Xcel Energy’s request allows a range of project sizes and types, including the potential to add energy storage or solar assets at selected wind projects.

Xcel Energy’s proposed Minnesota Energy Connection transmission line would deliver 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy, including this new wind energy, to the grid at Sherco. The line, currently under review at the Public Utilities Commission, would run 160-180 miles from Lyon County to Becker.

By reusing Sherco’s existing grid connections, Xcel Energy can provide customers with power in the most efficient manner.

The Sherco site plays an important role in the Upper Midwest’s clean energy future. In April, the company broke ground on the Upper Midwest’s largest solar project near the plant site. Once complete, the 710-megawatt Sherco Solar project will generate enough electricity to power more than 150,000 homes each year on average and fully replace the first Sherco coal unit.

Also, the company has also received state approval on a long-duration battery storage pilot project at the site.

Xcel Energy is committed to a smooth transition for Sherco plant employees, who have played a vital role in powering the region for decades. The company has transitioned other Minnesota coal plants without layoffs and expects to accomplish this again at the Sherco facility.

Xcel plans to retire all of its coal plants by 2030. The company is on track to reduce carbon emissions 85 percent from customers’ electricity in the Upper Midwest by 2030. Its goal is to deliver 100 percent clean energy in Minnesota by 2040.