Regulators in Minnesota approved Xcel Energy’s Sherco Solar Project, a 460 MW plant that would be among the largest solar facilities in the upper Midwest. 

The Public Utilities Commission earlier had approved the site permit for the two-parcel facility in Sherburne County, northwest of Minneapolis. Its most recent decision on September 15 found the project to be a cost-effective resource for the company to acquire and build.

Local news reports in late August quoted an Xcel Energy executive as saying that the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act could shave 20% off the project’s expected $575 million cost.

The Sherco Solar Project is being developed jointly by Xcel and National Grid Renewables. It is expected to help the region economically as Xcel closes the first of its three coal-powered units at the Sherco Generating Plant over the next seven years

The two-part solar project is planned for roughly 3,500 acres of land adjacent to Xcel’s existing, coal-powered Sherburne County Generating Facility. The solar facility will connect to the electrical grid at the existing Sherburne County Substation by a new 1.7-mile single-circuit 345kV transmission line for the East Block and a new 3.2-mile single-circuit 345kV transmission line for the West Block.

Xcel said expects that all project components can be in service in the fourth quarter of 2025, with the first phase placed in-service in the fourth quarter of 2024.

The solar project is intended to partially replace energy production of the Sherco Generating Plant Unit 2, currently a coal-powered facility. The unit’s planned retirement in 2023 was approved by regulators in October 2016.

The Sherburne County Generating Station, also known as Sherco, has three units with a combined capacity of 2,238 MW. The single-unit Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant is four miles away with a capacity of 671 MW.

Sherco was initially built by Northern States Power, now a unit of Xcel Energy. Units 1 and 2, which each have a capacity of 680 MW, came online in 1976 and 1977. The 876 MW Unit 3 was built from 1983 to 1987.

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