- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Xcel Energy Inc. has signed deals with three energy developers to build up to three giant solar arrays to help it comply with Minnesota’s renewable energy mandates.

Xcel said in regulatory filings Friday that it definitely wants to proceed with at least two of the projects, a 62-megawatt system near Marshall proposed by NextEra Energy Resources of Juno Beach, Florida, and a 25-megawatt array near Tracy planned by Juwi Solar of Boulder, Colorado.

The largest of the proposals is a 100-megawatt solar farm near North Branch proposed by Community Energy Resource of Radnor, Pennsylvania. But Xcel said that project may be unnecessary if regulators give final approval to the already planned 100-megawatt Aurora Solar project from Edina-based Geronimo Energy that would be built at up to 20 locations across Minnesota, the Star Tribune reported Saturday (http://strib.mn/1wyaaIK ).

Under a 2013 state law, investor-owned utilities like Xcel are required to have 1.5 percent solar electricity by 2020. That mandate came on top of the state’s existing renewable-energy requirements that have helped drive Xcel’s investments in wind power.

The three new projects would give Xcel the equivalent of a modest-sized traditional power plant by late 2016. Xcel wouldn’t own the solar farms, but would purchase all the energy, equivalent to the amount used by 41,000 homes.

Xcel did not disclose the price of the solar power under the 25-year purchase agreements, declaring those details trade secrets.

Dave Sparby, CEO of Xcel’s Minnesota regional operation, said the prices resulting from competitive bids “will provide substantial benefit to our customers” and avoid 7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

“As such, these resources continue the significant progress we’ve made during the last decade in cost-effectively improving our environmental performance,” Sparby said in a statement.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission must approve all of the deals. Xcel has asked the commission to consider whether the latest solar proposals are a better deal than the Aurora project, but Geronimo has objected to Xcel’s effort to reopen the issue.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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