One of the largest utilities in the United States, Xcel Energy Inc., announced that it will close its remaining coal-fired power plants in the Upper Midwest a decade ahead of its previously-announced schedule. In addition, the company will add 3,000 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2030.
The Allen S. King plant in Oak Park Heights, Minnesota and the Sherburne County Generating Station in Becker, Minnesota are the plants in question. The transition away from coal is a difficult challenge for such small communities. The plant in Becker, for example, employs 300 people in a town of 4,500 and provides 75% of the city’s tax base. Towns like this realize that coal is inevitably going away and must find ways to move beyond their dependence upon it. The Becker plant will not completely close until 2030, but parts will now only run seasonally, and one of the 3 units will close permanently in 2023
Xcel Energy, based in Minneapolis, serves more than 3.3 million electricity customers in 8 states. Last December, the company announced that it would deliver 100% clean, carbon-free electricity by 2050 and would achieve an 80% carbon reduction from its 2005 levels by 2035. It is the first major US utility to set such a goal.
Xcel will increase its investment in energy efficiency measures, bring 1,850 megawatts of new wind capacity online in Minnesota by 2022, and keep its Monticello Nuclear Generating Station operating until 2040, a decade later than planned. The company’s stepped-up clean energy strategy is part of a new legal settlement between the company, environmental organizations, and labor groups that involves Xcel’s proposed $650 million purchase of a 760-megawatt natural gas plant.
Photo, posted January 3, 2016, courtesy of Tony Webster via Flickr.