Minnesota PUC puts Aurora solar app into extended review

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Sept. 24 approved an extended review process for an application from Aurora Distributed Solar LLC to build a series of solar projects that total 100 MW of capacity.

On July 9, Aurora Distributed Solar filed an application for a site permit to construct multiple photovoltaic solar systems and associated facilities totaling 100 MW. Aurora proposes to build up to 24 individual solar facilities, ranging in size from 1.5 MW to 10 MW, in 16 counties throughout southern and central Minnesota.

On July 29, the Minnesota Department of Commerce informed Aurora that, based on the information supplied, the proposed project was a 100 MW large electric power generating plant and therefore subject to the commission’s siting authority.

Generally, the final decision on a site or route permit must be made within six months of the commission’s determination that the application is complete. The commission may extend this period for up to three months for just cause or upon agreement of the applicant.

In its comments, the Department of Commerce proposed a tentative nine-month schedule for completing review of the Aurora site-permit application. The company initially supported a more expedited six-month process. However, at a commission meeting, Aurora asked the commission to adopt the Department’s schedule. The company stated that it would continue to work with the Department to find opportunities to streamline the process going forward.

The commission on Sept. 24 concluded that there is just cause to use a nine-month schedule as recommended by the Department. “A more conservative schedule will allow for careful review of Aurora’s distributed solar project, which is the first of its kind in Minnesota,” the order said.

The commission also found that it can’t resolve all issues raised by the application on the basis of the record before it. Those issues turn on specific facts that are best developed in proceedings conducted by an Administrative Law Judge.

The commission said in a September public meeting presentation that it is aiming for a decision on this site permit in May 2015. The presentation said the developer is negotiating a power purchase agreement with Xcel Energy, which operates in the state as Northern States Power. The various projects included in this application have names like Albany Solar, Annandale Solar, Atwater Solar and Dodge Center Solar.

The project contact is: Project Manager, Aurora Distributed Solar LLC, Tena Rytel, tena@geronimoenergy.com, Phone 952-988-9000.

Aurora Distributed Solar is a wholly owned subsidiary of Enel Green Power North America Inc. The project developer is Geronimo Energy.

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.