Xcel Energy’s solar project at Sherco coal plant in Becker approved

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Thursday unanimously approved Xcel Energy’s planned expansion of the Sherco Solar Project in Becker.

The project will become one of the largest solar projects in the country and will help Xcel Energy triple the amount of solar energy on its Upper Midwest system by 2028, according to a news release. It will also add 250 megawatts to the 460 currently under construction, for a total of 710 megawatts of solar generation.

The 710-megawatt capacity will generate enough electricity to power over 150,000 homes annually across Xcel Energy’s Upper Midwest system.

Xcel Energy said the project is set to be completed by the end of 2025 and will replace a Sherco coal unit that is scheduled to retire later this year.

The project also includes plans to purchase power from the 100-megawatt Apple River solar project — one of the largest solar projects in Wisconsin.

“We thank the Commission, Minnesota Department of Commerce and labor partners for their support of our solar portfolio,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy — Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota. “Sherco Solar will provide the lowest-cost solar on our Upper Midwest system, and these projects demonstrate our focus on clean energy without compromising affordability.”

The expansion represents a $406 million investment from Xcel Energy, bringing the company’s total investment in the Sherco solar project to over $1 billion.

The PUC approved the initial phases of the project last fall and construction began in late April, Xcel Energy said.

Sherco Solar will provide nearly 400 union construction jobs and will bring $350 million to the local economy. Xcel Energy noted that it has transitioned other Minnesota coal plants without any layoffs, and it believes this will be the case with Sherco.

The company also stated that it plans to retire all of its coal units by 2030.