Minnesota Commerce Dept. works on enviro review of 100-MW solar project

The Minnesota Department of Commerce on Dec. 5 filed a “scoping” decision with the state Public Utilities Commission about what will be included in a planned environmental assessment on 100 MW of distributed solar planned by Geronimo Energy LLC.

Geronimo has been bidding this capacity into a resource acquisition docket for the Northern States Power unit of Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL), with no final contract in place at this point.

This is called the Aurora Distributed Solar Energy Project, proposed by Geronimo’s Aurora Distributed Solar LLC. Aurora proposes to construct 100 MW of distributed photovoltaic (PV) solar generation at up to 24 facilities in 16 counties in order to provide distributed solar energy to meet Xcel Energy’s needs for additional capacity in the 2017-2019 timeframe. Nameplate capacity at each facility ranges from 1.5 MW to 10 MW. Preliminary estimates of developed area at each facility range from approximately 13 to 108 acres. The project is located in Benton, Blue Earth, Carver, Chippewa, Chisago, Dodge, Goodhue, Kandiyohi, Le Sueur, McLeod, Pipestone, Rice, Stearns, Waseca, Washington and Wright counties.

The total project as proposed would install PV modules mounted on a linear axis tracking system and a centralized inverter or inverters at each facility. Other components required to construct and operate the facilities include electrical cables, conduit, electrical cabinets, switchgears, step-up transformers, SCADA systems and metering equipment. Each facility would connect to a separate Xcel Energy substation at the distribution level.

The total nameplate capacity (in MW ac) of all the proposed facilities is 130.5 MW. Aurora states that it does not anticipate constructing all proposed facilities, but will determine the number and combination of facilities constructed during final design.

A site permit application for the project was filed by Aurora on July 9, 2014, and accepted as complete by the commission on Sept. 24, 2014. The site permit application will be reviewed under the alternative permitting process, pursuant to the state Power Plant Siting Act. The environmental assessment is due to be completed in January 2015.

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.