Minnesota commission looks at approving 100-MW Aurora solar project

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission at its May 28 meeting will be looking at an application from Aurora Distributed Solar LLC for a total of 100 MW (ac) of solar capacity, spread around at a number of project sites, to provide solar energy to meet Xcel Energy’s (NYSE: XEL) needs for additional capacity in the 2017-2019 timeframe.

As a result of a competitive resource acquisition process to select resources to meet Xcel Energy’s identified need, the commission approved a power purchase agreement for the project. The project, as proposed, would include installation of photovoltaic (PV) modules mounted on a linear axis tracking system and a centralized inverter or inverters at each facility.

On May 26 commission staff filed a proposed approval order for this application.

Each facility would connect to a separate Xcel Energy substation at the distribution level which is intended to increase reliability, minimize generation losses associated with longer transmission interconnections, and minimize lead-times and interconnection costs compared to transmission interconnections. Aurora has identified 24 facility locations where the necessary PV equipment and associated facilities would potentially be installed. The total nameplate capacity of all of the proposed facilities is 130.5 MW.

Aurora stated that it does not anticipate constructing at all 24 locations, but will determine the final number and combination of facilities, up to 100 MW (ac), to be constructed during the final design of the project. Final design will be informed by site-specific conditions determined through engineering studies, environmental survey results, and interconnections details.

The Aurora Project is scheduled to be placed in service by the end of 2016 with the flexibility to bring a portion online in 2015 to meet demand and construction schedules. The project will provide 71 MW of MISO-accredited capacity and supply Xcel Energy with approximately 200,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of renewable energy annually.

The distributed solar Facilities range in size from 1.5 MW to 10 MW with a combined nominal nameplate capacity of approximately 100 MW (ac). Aurora is expected to continue to own the project after commercial operation. However, due to the distributed locations of the project solar facilities and need to satisfy the requirements of the investment tax credit, a federal tax credit available to taxpayers pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code, the company has organized a separate limited liability company (special purpose vehicle or SPV) for each solar facility, which will serve as the investment entity for the tax equity investor. Aurora Distributed Solar, acting on behalf of itself and each SPV, is the permittee for the project.

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.