North Star Solar offers proposed order to Minnesota PUC for its 100-MW project

North Star Solar PV LLC on Nov. 2 filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission a draft approval order for a 100-MW (ac) project it wants to build that would supply the Northern States Power unit of Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL).

The project developer is seeking a Site Permit and Route Permit for the North Star Solar Electric Power Generating Plant and associated 115-kV high voltage transmission line (HVTL) in Chisago County, Minn. The proposed in-service date for the projects is Nov. 1, 2016. This would be a 100-MW photovoltaic (PV) solar facility.

This matter was assigned to Administrative Law Judge Barbara J. Case. On April 27, the Minnesota commission found the application substantially complete and directed the use of the commission’s alternative permitting process in order to develop the record. On July 7, the commission referred the application to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) to enhance record development and further assist the commission in its decision-making process.

On Oct. 7, ALJ Case presided over the public hearing on the Joint Site Permit and Route Permit Application for the projects held in North Branch, Minnesota. Post-hearing submissions were filed by the applicant and the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review Analysis (DOC EERA). The OAH’s public hearing comment period and factual record closed on Oct. 21.

North Star Solar PV is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Community Energy Renewables LLC. Community Energy develops, markets and builds renewable energy projects throughout the United States. Community Energy entered the solar market in 2009 and has started construction or built solar PV facilities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Indiana, North Carolina and Colorado. Recently, Community Energy successfully 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.

Project will interconnect to Xcel’s Chisago Substation

The North Star solar project is comprised of approximately 1,100 acres of agricultural land located within the political boundaries of the city of North Branch, and Lent and Sunrise townships in Chisago County, and North Star has secured site control for this land. The final project design is expected to occupy approximately 800 acres of land. The project will interconnect to Xcel’s Chisago Substation via the HVTL Project by creating a new transmission line easement parallel to the existing transmission line corridor serving the Chisago Substation. The final interconnection from the solar project substation to the Xcel Chisago Substation point of interconnect will be accomplished via the proposed HVTL Project, the majority of which will be located within the Xcel Energy property boundary.

The planned solar system will utilize single axis trackers. The arrays will face due south and will have a range of tilt up to +/- 60 degrees east and west. The proposed arrays will create a ground cover ratio of approximately 0.33 using a tracker and module layout designed for maximized energy production.

While final equipment selection has not yet been made, North Star has modeled the SunEdison “Sylvantis” F335 Solar Module (F335) 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.

Total costs for constructing the solar project are estimated to be approximately $180 million. Operating costs are estimated to be approximately $12 million on an annual basis, including labor, materials, and property taxes.

For the HVTL Project, North Star has filed a Large Generator Interconnection Agreement (LGIA) application with the Midcontinent ISO that is identified as queue number J385. North Star entered the J385 interconnect request into the MISO Definitive Planning Phase study process in February 2015. North Star expects to finalize an Interconnection Agreement with Xcel Energy and MISO in 2015.

This project was proposed in response to Xcel Energy’s Solar Request for Proposals (RFP) to help fulfill the Minnesota Solar Energy Standard which requires the company to serve 1.5% of its retail load with solar energy by the end of 2020. As a result of the RFP, Xcel negotiated Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) with three of the competing proposals for a total of 187 MW. The three winning solar projects are:

  • Marshall Solar, a 62.25 MW project located near Marshall;
  • MN Solar I, a 24.75 MW project located near Tracy; and
  • the North Star 100 MW project near North Branch.

The Minnesota commission approved Xcel Energy’s “Solar Portfolio” in a March 24 order.

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.