Marshall solar project up and running for Xcel Energy

Photo by Deb Gau Solar panels near 290th Street and Lyon County Road 9, part of a solar installation east of Marshall, have now started commercial operations. Xcel Energy announced last week that it is buying the electricity generated at the site.

MARSHALL — A solar farm recently built east of Marshall is now operational — and the electricity generated there will go to serve Xcel Energy customers.

Xcel Energy announced last week that it will be buying power from the Marshall Solar Energy Project. It’s part of a larger plan to increase the amount of solar energy used by Xcel, a company spokesperson said.

A 2013 Minnesota law requires utilities like Xcel Energy to produce 1.5 percent of their electricity from solar energy by 2020, said Laura McCarten, regional vice president for Xcel Energy.

“At the same time, we are seeing that our customers are more and more interested” in solar energy, McCarten said. With the help of solar providers like the Marshall project, she said, Xcel is “well ahead” of the state’s 1.5 percent solar requirement.

McCarten said the Marshall solar project will generate a substantial amount of electricity — enough to power about 15,000 homes in the upper Midwest.

The Marshall solar project, owned and operated by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, is built on about 355 acres of land in Lyon County. McCarten said Xcel selected the Marshall project through a competitive bidding process for solar energy providers. In addition to the Marshall solar project, Xcel will buy electricity from two other recent solar projects in Minnesota, McCarten said. Those projects are the North Star Solar Project in Chisago County, which became operational in December; and the Aurora Solar Project, which will have multiple sites around the state.

McCarten said solar energy fits in well with Xcel’s energy sources. Solar panels work when the sun is shining, and that’s helpful at times when there is high energy demand in the middle of the day — for example, during the summer. However, for a steady supply of electricity, Xcel will still need to combine solar with other sources of power.

The solar power generated by the Marshall project will also allow Xcel to avoid around 87,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, a Jan. 18 news release said. Xcel’s goal is to be 63 percent carbon-free by 2030, said Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy-Minnesota.

McCarten said another positive aspect of buying electricity from Minnesota solar installations is the impact they have on the local economy. The Marshall solar project will generate an estimated $400,000 in annual tax revenue for state and local governments, and schools, the Xcel release said. Construction of the project employed nearly 300 people, the release said.

“It’s good for Minnesota when we have projects in Minnesota,” McCarten said.


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