Minnesota PUC okays Xcel for new solar, gas additions

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Dec. 15 authorized Northern States Power to add more than 600 MW of natural gas-fired and solar capacity.

In September, this Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL) subsidiary told the commission that its resource need over the next few years is lower than previously expected, and sought a delay in any commitment for new gas-fired resources from Xcel itself, Calpine (NYSE: CPN), or Invenergy Thermal Development.

The commission on Dec. 15 voted unanimously to authorize NSP to enter into a 71-MW power purchase agreement with Geronimo Energy for the output of the Aurora solar project and to pursue a final 20-year PPA with Calpine for 345 MW from a gas-fired combined-cycle addition at Calpine’s existing Mankato Energy Center. The Aurora project was originally proposed at 100 MW in size, and would be a series of distributed solar projects at Xcel substations around the state. Invenergy is looking to expand by 179 MW its existing Cannon Falls power plant.

The state Department of Commerce had recommended going into the hearing approval of at least one of the gas-fired projects, with the top choice for the department being the Calpine/Mankato project. An Invenergy representative said after the vote to approve the Calpine project that Invenergy was “disappointed” in the decision since it thought its project was the best one for ratepayers and that its bid was most compliant with NSP’s original request for proposals for new gas-fired capacity.

The commissioners also endorsed NSP’s proposed 215-MW gas-fired turbine (Unit 6) at its Black Dog power plant site in Burnsville, Minnesota. One commissioner said he was “on the fence” about whether this project was needed on top of the Calpine/Mankato project, but that there are benefits for the Black Dog project, including the potential displacement of less economic generation resources on the NSP system.

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.