State known for agriculture recognized for growing something new — here’s how it could power 150,000 homes a year

Minnesota is a state known for growing food, but it’s now being recognized for growing something else.

Its largest utility, Xcel Energy, has recently announced an expansion of its Sherco Solar project from a 460-megawatt capacity to nearly 710 megawatts by 2025. This major upgrade will make Sherco Solar the largest solar project in the upper Midwest.

Once the upgrade is complete, the solar farm will be able to power as many as 150,000 Minnesota homes each year. The expansion is slated to cost $406 million, bringing Xcel Energy’s total investment in solar at the Sherco Solar station up to $1 billion.

Currently, the Sherco station features a three-unit coal-fired station with capacity hovering around 2,238 megawatts per year. The new solar addition will take over the generating capacity of one of the units, which will be retired by the end of 2023.

Xcel Energy has also announced it will shut down all its coal-generating stations across the state by 2030 — which is good news for the environment. Burning coal doesn’t just release atmospheric-warming compounds, but it also creates air pollution that decreases the air quality for Minnesota residents.

In addition, the company will save money on building the new solar array at the existing dirty energy-generating site since the hookups to the grid are already available.

Constructing the solar panel project on the land is also an effective use of space since the retired plant may have otherwise gone unused.

Plus, adding new renewable projects on former dirty energy sites can create reinvestment in spaces and aid in a green energy transition. Workers can be retrained to operate solar technology, which can make for a more equitable transition when the company phases out of coal completely. This is good news for workers, as well as the planet.

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