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Large-scale Solar Generating Plant (Photo: Business Wire)

Citing the advantage of adding more solar energy at a lower customer cost, Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL) submitted to state regulators a plan to add up to 150 megawatts of large-scale solar resources in its Upper Midwest service territory by the end of 2016.

Large-scale solar generating plant (Photo: Business Wire)

Large-scale solar generating plant (Photo: Business Wire)

“We are excited to develop solar resources that provide customer value and offer new customer choices,” said Dave Sparby, president and CEO of Northern States Power Co.-Minnesota, an Xcel Energy company. “We plan to leverage the economies of large-scale systems to keep the cost as low as possible for customers.”

Xcel Energy is proposing that a significant portion of Minnesota’s solar standard be met through large-scale projects, which are more efficient and less expensive than rooftop solar and smaller distributed systems. The company on Friday notified the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission of its intent to issue a request for proposals by April 15, 2014, for large-scale solar projects totaling up to 150 megawatts to be installed by Dec. 31, 2016, prior to a reduction in the federal Investment Tax Credit for solar.

The omnibus energy bill passed last spring by the Minnesota Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton requires investor-owned utilities to acquire 1.5 percent of retail electricity sales from solar energy by 2020. Xcel Energy estimates that it will need approximately 300 megawatts of solar capacity to meet the standard.

Xcel Energy officials expect that approximately one-third of Minnesota’s 2020 solar requirement will be met through new customer offerings and solar projects receiving funding through the company’s Renewable Development Fund. The new program offerings include a community solar gardens program, a new Solar Rewards program, and the Made in Minnesota program administered by the Department of Commerce.

“We already rely on renewable energy to provide our customers with clean and affordable electricity,” said Sparby. “Through our solar programs, we will provide interested customers with even more renewable energy choices while ensuring that all customers have access to a reliable and reasonably priced electricity system.”

Xcel Energy plans to propose a second round of large-scale solar acquisition in 2017 or 2018 to acquire the necessary solar resources to ensure compliance with the standard by 2020.

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