The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission rules in favor of solar as a cost-competitive energy source for Minnesota-based Xcel Energy. The 100 MW distributed solar project will use solar arrays ranging in size from 2 MW to 10 MW across Xcel’s service territory.
Minnesota has been making solar news this year, most notably for the new market-based “value of solar” method adopted there for utilities to contract with distributed solar producers.
Today there was more big solar news from the state. In a ground-breaking decision, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) ruled in favor of solar as a cost-competitive energy source for Minnesota-based Xcel Energy. After a long competitive resource acquisition process, Geronimo Energy’s Aurora Solar Project was selected by the PUC to fill a portion of Xcel’s future generation needs.
The Aurora Solar Project is interesting because it’s not one of the big utility-scale projects most often associated with big utilities like Duke and Xcel. Instead, the 100 MW distributed solar project will use solar arrays ranging in size from 2 MW to 10 MW across Xcel’s service territory. The project will interconnect to multiple Xcel Energy substations across Minnesota and will provide energy and capacity for the local distribution network. This unique design will bring many benefits, including a reduction in line loss, elimination of transmission costs, and geographic diversification of generation assets. Arrays will be located throughout 16 counties in Minnesota in order to bring energy to the grid efficiently and cost-effectively, while protecting the environment.
“We are very pleased to have been part of this unique process and to show that solar energy can be a cost competitive and reliable part of the energy mix,” said Geronimo Energy President, Blake Nixon.
“This is a big win for us, as well as for the larger solar energy industry,” said Betsy Engelking, Vice President of Geronimo Energy. “The Aurora project competed with a number of natural gas plants and in the end, the Commission found that our project was a cost competitive part of the overall solution and would help Xcel Energy meet Minnesota’s energy policy goals.”
The PUC’s decision comes after a historic recommendation to adopt the Aurora Solar Project as a first source of fulfillment for Xcel’s resource needs made by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Eric L. Lipman in December 2013. In his report, ALJ Lipman stated, “the greatest value to Minnesota and Xcel’s ratepayers is drawn from selecting Geronimo’s solar energy proposal.”