Swinerton, D.E. Shaw complete the largest solar plant in the Midwest

Until recently, large utility-scale solar projects had been the domain of California and States in the Southwest, with a few odd projects in Texas and other locations east of the Rocky Mountains. Midwestern states had modest residential and commercial solar markets, and perhaps a few scattered smaller utility-scale projects.

Not anymore. Yesterday utility Xcel Energy announced that Swinerton Renewable Energy has completed construction on the North Star Solar facility, a 100 MW-AC project comprising more than 440,000 PV modules covering 1,000 acres near the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.

Unlike many projects of its size, the plant uses fixed tilt mounting and does not incorporate tracking technology.

Project owner D.E. Shaw holds a 25-year contract to supply power to utility Xcel Energy from the North Star Solar project, as soon as it comes online in December. Xcel notes that part of the output will go to the Minnesota State Capitol through its Renewable*Connect Government Pilot Program, which is pending review by state regulators.

This may be just the beginning. In its latest Integrated Resource Plan, Xcel laid out plans to add 1.4 GW of solar by 2030, including adding at least 650 MW of solar by 2021 through community solar or other “cost-effective” solar. However the real credit must go to Minnesota’s legislators, as Xcel is under a mandate by the state to procure at least 25% of its electricity from wind and solar by 2020.

Currently over 100 MW of community solar projects are under construction in Minnesota.