460-megawatt project near Sherco coal plant will create nearly 900 union jobs

Xcel Energy has proposed to build Minnesota’s largest solar energy project near the Sherco power plant in Becker, Minnesota.

The 460-megawatt Sherco Solar project will provide carbon-free energy as Xcel Energy pursues its vision of delivering 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050, the company said in a press release.

The project, representing an investment of about $575 million in clean energy infrastructure, will help drive the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by creating nearly 900 union construction jobs over the duration of the project.

The new project, which will be built in 2022-2024, will produce enough energy to power 100,000 Upper Midwest homes each year. It will be among the lowest cost solar energy in the state and will share the existing transmission infrastructure at the Sherco power plant, helping keep bills low for customers.

The project will be developed jointly by National Grid Renewables and Xcel Energy, and owned and operated by Xcel Energy.

The addition of the state’s largest solar project at Sherco is a key step in transitioning the site to generating cleaner energy as the company retires all its coal plants in the region, including the Sherco plant, within the next decade.

“As Xcel Energy continues to lead the clean energy transition, we’ll invest in new renewable energy projects that save our customers money while also reducing carbon, helping us achieve our bold plan to reduce emissions 80% by 2030 and keep us firmly on our path to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. “The Sherco solar project will deliver more of the renewable energy our customers want while also keeping bills affordable for the long-term.”

“As a Minnesota-based company, National Grid Renewables is proud to partner with Xcel Energy on this project to provide economic benefits to our home state,” said David Reamer, head of development, U.S. onshore renewables for National Grid Renewables. “Projects like this create new tax revenue and jobs, as well as boost local spending – all of which benefits local and state economies and residents.”

Xcel Energy is emphasizing hiring minority and women-owned companies and individuals to build new projects, and is finalizing a proposal to develop a workforce and training development program that will help provide utility industry and construction skills to those communities. The Sherco solar project will be the first opportunity for graduates of that program to build energy infrastructure serving Xcel Energy customers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest that has affected our communities demonstrated that as a major employer in the state, Xcel Energy has a unique opportunity to lift up community members who have often been left behind in our society,” said Kim Randolph, vice president, energy supply projects, Xcel Energy. “We expect more than 200 people to participate in our workforce and training development program in the Twin Cities, and many of them will help build Minnesota’s largest solar project at Sherco.”

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission asked energy providers to bring projects forward to help the region’s economy recover from the COVID-19 recession.

In response, Xcel Energy is proposing the Sherco solar project several years earlier than planned. The project will provide an estimated $115 million in wages from nearly 900 new union construction jobs and $240 million in local benefits over the life of the project.

Xcel Energy is also rebuilding several older wind projects throughout the region, along with other accelerated and incremental investments. These projects will collectively help create jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and increase the amount of wind and solar energy delivered to our customers.

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