Minnesota PUC gets ready to review 100-MW North Star Solar project

Posted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission website on March 17 was a notice from Community Energy Renewables LLC that affiliate North Star Solar PV LLC filed a Combined Site Permit Application and Route Permit Application as a Joint Proceeding with the Minnesota commission on Feb. 11.

This is for a 100-MW solar energy generating facility and associated transmission line. North Star proposes to construct the North Star Solar Project in Chisago County, Minn., approximately four miles southeast of North Branch. The North Star Solar Project will utilize a single axis tracker system to move the photovoltaic (PV) modules with the sun from east to west every day. The final Solar Project design is expected to occupy approximately 800 acres of agricultural land.

North Star also proposes to construct an approximately one-mile long, 115-kV high-voltage transmission line to connect the North Star Solar Project to Xcel Energy‘s existing Chisago Substation.

A Site and Route Permit from the commission is required before the North Star Solar Project and the transmission project can be constructed. The Power Plant Siting Act and implementing rules in the Minnesota Administrative Rules establish the requirements for submitting and processing a Site and Route Permit Application. The Site Permit and Route Permit Application will be considered by the commission under the alternative permitting process. The commission has up to nine months from the time the application is accepted as complete to process and make a decision on the Site and Route Permit, according to state law.

The project was proposed to Northern States Power d/b/a Xcel Energy in response to Xcel’s 2014 Solar Resource Solicitation on June 20, 2014, and selected as part of the Preferred Portfolio.

The application said that since its inception in 1999, Community Energy has led the development, financing and construction of more than 800 MW of renewable energy facilities. Community Energy developed and built some of the first wind facilities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Illinois and Missouri. Community Energy’s track record is evidenced by 713 MW of operational wind capacity and a growing portfolio of solar capacity – now in excess of 300 MW. Community Energy entered the solar market in 2009 and has started construction or built about 100 MW of solar photovoltaic facilities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Indiana, North Carolina and Colorado. More recently, Community Energy said it developed and secured long-term off-take agreements for a 120-MW solar project in Colorado called Comanche Solar and a 100-MW solar project with Georgia Power called Butler Solar.

The proposed in-service date for the North Star Solar Project and the transmission project is Nov. 1, 2016.

North Star has filed a Large Generator Interconnection Agreement (LGIA) application with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) that is identified as queue number J385. North Star expects to finalize an Interconnection Agreement with Xcel Energy and MISO in the third quarter of 2015. The preliminary feasibility results for J385 indicated that zero contingencies will arise from the addition of 100 MW of solar generation at the 115-kV bus of the Chisago Substation.

Final equipment selection has not yet been made, said the Feb. 11 application. For the North Star Project, North Star has modeled the SunEdison “Sylvantis” F335 Solar Module mounted on single axis trackers with the Advanced Energy 1000NX inverter. The F335 is a high efficiency mono-crystalline 72-cell module that delivers a low cost per watt and an extended lifetime from one of the leading companies in the solar industry. 

A project contact is: Chase Whitney, Originator, Community Energy Renewables LLC, 1120 Pearl Street, Suite 200, Boulder, CO 80302, chase.whitney@communityenergyinc.com, 303-444-1412.

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.