Minnesota report breaks down power projects offered in Xcel RFP

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Oct. 14 issued an environmental report on the power projects that Northern States Power d/b/a Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL) might secure power from under a request for proposals (RFP) from earlier this year.

The commission has accepted: two self-build proposals from Northern States Power; Calpine Corp. (NYSE: CPN) and its affiliate Mankato Energy Center LLC for an expanded gas-fired plant; Invenergy Thermal Development LLC for one new gas-fired plant and an expanded existing gas-fired plant; Geronimo Wind Energy d/b/a Geronimo Energy for new distributed solar generation; and Great River Energy (GRE).

In its review, the commission will consider the following alternatives:

Xcel (three CTs at two locations)

Xcel’s proposed three 215 MW combustion turbine gas generators with a total capacity of 645 MW. One turbine would be at Xcel’s existing Black Dog plant in Burnsville, Minn. The two other turbines would be built near Hankinson, N.D.

Xcel proposes to construct one 215-MW combustion turbine at Black Dog plant. This unit would come online in 2017. The existing Black Dog plant was originally constructed as a coal plant and is now a 538 MW coal- and gas-fired plant. The remaining coal units, Units 3 and 4, are scheduled to be retired by 2015, after which the facility would be entirely fired by natural gas. Under Xcel’s Black Dog Expansion proposal, the retirement of unit 4 would be moved ahead to 2014 from the current 2015 schedule and Unit 3 would be retired in 2015, as scheduled.

Xcel also proposes to construct two 215 MW combustion turbines at a new site near Hankinson, N.D., for a total capacity of 430 MW. Under Xcel’s proposal one of the units would come online in 2018, and the second in either 2018 or 2019. If the Red River Valley proposal is not selected, Xcel would continue to consider developing generation resources in the Hankinson area, but no facilities would be constructed in the foreseeable future.

Calpine (expanded Mankato plant)

Calpine’s proposal to expand the existing Mankato Energy Center in Mankato through the addition of one natural gas-fired combustion turbine generator, an additional heat recovery steam generator, and related ancillary equipment. The proposal would increase the plant’s output by adding 290 MW of intermediate combined-cycle capacity and 55 MW of peaking capacity. Calpine currently operates the Mankato Energy Center as a 375-MW natural gas-fired combined cycle generating facility in Mankato. As it currently operates, the entire output is sold to Xcel. Under the proposal, the total plant size would be 720 MW. Calpine anticipates that the proposed expansion would be in commercial operation by mid-2017, subject to regulatory approvals and agreements with Xcel and financing parties.

Under the no-build alternative in the environmental review, Calpine would not construct the expansion to the Mankato Energy Center in the foreseeable future. Although Calpine would likely continue to offer the expansion in response to other competitive bidding processes, the timeframe for future construction is unknown.

Invenergy (three turbines at two locations)

Invenergy’s proposed three 178.5-MW natural gas combustion turbines, one in Cannon Falls, Minn., and two in Dakota County or Scott County, Minn, for a combined capacity of 535.5 MW.

Invenergy currently operates the Cannon Falls Energy Center, a 357-MW, gas-fired peaker. Invenergy proposes to add one additional 178.5 MW simple cycle GE 7FA CT to this facility. If the Cannon Falls Expansion proposal is not selected, no additional generation would be constructed at the facility at this time. Although Invenergy would likely continue to offer the expansion in response to other competitive bidding processes, the timeframe for future construction is unknown.

Invenergy has also submitted a proposal to construct a new facility with two 178.5-MW GE 7FA turbines at a new location in Hampton Township in Dakota County, adjacent to the newly constructed Hampton Substation. Invenergy has preliminarily identified an alternative site immediately east of I-35 and near the intersection of Dupont Avenue and 250th Street East in New Market Township, but is not actively developing that site.

Geronimo (100 MW of solar PV at several sites)

Geronimo’s up to 100 MW of solar photovoltaic generation distributed at up to 23 sites across Minnesota. The proposal would provide Xcel with 71 MW of Midcontinent ISO-accredited capacity and up to 200,000 MWh of energy each year. Geronimo had secured site control for up to 113 MW of solar capacity at 23 sites as of Sept. 10.

Great River Energy (resource credits with no capacity additions)

GRE’s Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) Zone 1 Resource Credits for capacity only. Under GRE’s proposal no new facilities would be constructed and no rights to energy production would be transferred to Xcel. GRE’s existing generation resources would continue to operate to meet GRE’s needs but Xcel could use the credits to meet its MISO reserve requirement.

Environmental review becomes part of the PUC’s decisionmaking process

These proposals will be weighed against each other in a formal evidentiary proceeding based on the certificate of need statute and rules. The commission has referred this matter to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for contested case proceedings. At the conclusion of the process, the commission is expected to select one or some combination of the proposed alternatives to meet Xcel’s identified need. This proceeding is the only proceeding in which the no-build alternative and the size, type, timing, system configuration, and voltage will be considered.

As part of the review process the commission has requested the state Department of Commerce to prepare an environmental review evaluating the proposals under consideration. This report is part of the record which the commission will consider in making a decision on a certificate of need for any of the projects.

Under the Certificate of Need process, the Commerce Dept. is required to prepare “an environmental report on a proposed high voltage transmission line or a proposed large electric power generating plant at the need stage.” An environmental report includes an “analysis of the human and environmental impacts of a [proposed] project.” The report examines the potential human and environmental impacts of a proposed project, alternatives to the project, and potential mitigating measures for anticipated adverse impacts.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.