4/3/2014 4:06:00 PM Solar plan ok'd by MN Public Utilities Comm.
It’s looking like there will be solar energy panels erected in Chisago County sometime in the next couple of years. At least four suitable solar array sites have been identified here by Geronimo Energy, and are in Geronimo’s Aurora Project plan approved March 27 by the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC), to help Xcel meet future peak energy demands. The PUC heard testimony for almost five hours March 25 and deliberated on March 27 to take action on an administrative law judge report concluding that Xcel Energy should use Geronimo solar installations to meet peak power demands. Xcel is required by state law to know how to address upcoming energy needs. Xcel, as a distributor of power, sought proposals from energy suppliers. There were four energy provider plans that met the state’s mandate that Xcel “initiate competitive resource acquisition proposals.”
The Geronimo Aurora Solar Project, a large scale solar collection network in 16 counties, was the RFP recommended by the administrative law judge after he oversaw information gathering hearings. Solar meets Minnesota’s statutory preference for renewables, Judge Eric Lipman determined, adding in his report that solar was also the most cost effective option. The recommendation was disputed by other energy generators (Invenergy, Calpine, etc) also contending for the Xcel contracts. They testified before PUC members last week that their power plant proposals can “buy time” for Xcel and that less traditional options, like solar, could be invited to compete against each other in the future. Geronimo Vice President Betsy Engelking told the PUC last week that Geronimo did not enter into this RFP for Xcel “lightly.” She said it’s time that solar stand for comparisons to any facility.
“Segregating resources sets the process back,” she concluded. Sierra Club immediately released a statement, on news of the PUC acceptance of The Aurora Project. “The commission’s support... is well-aligned with a majority of Minnesota voters who favor clean energy. This investment...means instead of shipping our hard earned dollars out of the state, to buy fossil fuel, our money can support our local economy.” The Sierra Club added this plan by Geronimo will bring eight times more solar energy than is currently installed statewide, “...creating new high-skilled high wage jobs for Minnesotans.” Sites in Chisago County included in the Geronimo RFP are located near Xcel’s electric substations in Lent, at Taylors Falls, near Scandia and the substation between Forest Lake and Wyoming. The solar power is intended for infusion into the grid when demand calls for it. Geronimo’s RFP map shows potential solar farm locations also at Annandale, Montrose, Waseca, Paynesville, Hastings, and West Faribault.