By Brian Johnson
BridgeTower Media Newswires
As part of a plan to replace the coal-fired Allen S. King plant near Bayport, Xcel Energy is laying the groundwork for what it calls one of the largest-ever clean energy projects in northwest Wisconsin.
The Minneapolis-based utility is seeking development proposals for projects that will generate 650 megawatts of clean energy, which is enough to power 135,000 homes per year on average. The projects may be “solar-specific” or a combination of solar and energy storage, Xcel said in a request for proposals.
“Projects must be located in northwestern Wisconsin,” Xcel spokesman Theo Keith said in an email. “While we haven’t set up additional geographic criteria, we will ultimately look for the least-cost options for our customers. That includes the cost of building the transmission line, of which length is a factor.”
Scheduled for operation between 2027 and 2029, the clean-energy projects will serve customers throughout the Upper Midwest. By 2030, they will reduce carbon emissions by 85% compared with 2005 levels, according to Xcel.
More than 80% of Xcel customers’ electricity in the region will be carbon free by the end of the decade, with more than half of the power coming from wind and solar, the company said.
Xcel Energy said it’s working with the state of Minnesota and local communities to “explore potential future uses” of the King plant site. The plant was built in 1968 on a site along the St. Croix River at 1103 King Plant Road in Bayport.
“We will use part of the site, including the substation, in order to reuse existing grid connections and bring the future solar generation to the grid,” Keith said. “As for the rest of the property, we have convened a group of interested community stakeholders to obtain their input, and to keep them apprised of the future uses of the site.”
“By using existing grid connections, we’re able to provide customers with carbon-free energy in the most efficient and cost-effective way,” Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy-Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota, said in a statement. “We’re excited to see developers’ proposals to use rapidly developing technology to help us lead the clean energy transition.”
In the RFP, Xcel said it’s open to projects “across a wide range of pre-construction development levels” from “land acquisition with no further site control or permitting work” to those with completed environmental permitting. Xcel said it will be responsible for all “engineering, procurement, and construction work to ultimately construct, own, and operate generation assets.”
Proposals are due Sept. 5. Xcel will announce a short list of bids for contract negotiations in December and complete negotiations in the first quarter of next year, according to the RFP.
Xcel’s latest clean-energy plans come on the heels of a 2023 legislative session that was big on energy and climate. Among other things, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill that requires utilities to produce carbon-free energy by 2040.