U.S. electricity utility Xcel Energy has successfully retired one of the three coal generation units at its Sherco project site in Minnesota. Simultaneously, the utility is making significant strides in its commitment to renewable energy by constructing 710MW of solar PV capacity to replace the retiring coal projects. The phased retirement plan includes the remaining two coal-fired units, scheduled for decommissioning in 2026 and 2030.
The initial phase involves the construction of 460MW of solar PV to replace the recently retired coal unit, with an additional 250MW solar project awaiting site approval after receiving initial plans' approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) in September 2023.
As part of its forward-looking energy strategy, Xcel Energy has announced plans to install a cutting-edge 10MW, 100-hour duration battery energy storage system (BESS) at the Sherco site. Developed as a demonstration project by Massachusetts-based Form Energy, this BESS has the potential to provide reliable renewable energy delivery even during extended periods of low solar production, spanning multiple days.
The Sherco site is also slated to host the proposed Minnesota Energy Connection transmission line, facilitated by existing grid connections at the Sherco site. Xcel Energy anticipates this transmission line to contribute at least 2GW of solar and wind capacity to the Minnesota grid.
Ryan Long, President of Xcel Energy—Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota, expressed optimism about the Sherco plant site's potential in shaping the Upper Midwest's energy future. The phased approach to decommissioning coal units aligns with Xcel Energy's commitment to transition entirely to renewable energy by 2040.
The utility has been actively pursuing its renewable energy goals, as evidenced by an August 2023 request for proposals (RFP) for solar and storage projects to replace capacity at another of its coal plants in Minnesota, the Allen S. King project. The planned replacement includes the development of 650MW of solar PV capacity.