Xcel Energy breaks ground on Sherco solar project

A generating station
The coal-powered Sherburne County Generating Station in Becker, Minn., on Monday. The plant is scheduled to be closed by 2030, replaced with the Sherco Solar site which will be located on an adjacent plot of land.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Officials from Xcel Energy scooped shovelfuls of dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for a massive solar project now under construction.

Within two years, the flat, dusty fields near Becker will be lined with solar arrays turning the sun's energy into enough electricity to power 100,000 homes.

“This is really the kickoff of the transition from our Sherco coal plants into the next generation of solar,” said Chris Clark, Xcel’s president in Minnesota, North and South Dakota.

The solar project will help replace some of the electricity generated by the Sherco coal-fired power plant, which Xcel plans to retire by 2030. It will also help the company meet its goal of producing 85 percent carbon-free electricity by 2030, Clark said.

A man speaks on a small stage
Xcel Energy CEO Bob Frenzel discusses the Sherco Solar project during a Groundbreaking Ceremony in Becker, Minn., on Monday.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Acres of panels and batteries

Stretched over more than 3,000 acres, it will be the biggest solar facility in the Upper Midwest, and the fifth largest in the U.S., said Xcel CEO Bob Frenzel.

“At almost $700 million of investment, it's going to symbolize one of our single largest projects that we've ever built, and certainly our largest investment into solar to date,” Frenzel said.

Xcel plans to take advantage of tax credits in the federal Inflation Reduction Act for the Sherco project and likely for others in the future.

“We think solar is going to be a big part of our strategy as we move forward to the next decade, and it continues to get more and more cost effective and highly reliable,” Frenzel said.

The Minneapolis-based utility recently proposed building another 250-megawatt solar farm adjacent to the one under construction, pending approval by state regulators. Combined, the project would total 710 megawatts.

Xcel also plans to partner with Form Energy to add a battery system in Becker able to store electricity for up to four days.

People install propane
Propane equipment is installed for the Sherco Solar site in Becker, Minn., on Monday.
Tim Evans for MPR News
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