Massive solar plan for Minnesota wins bid over gas 

By David Shaffer | The Star Tribune: Minnesota soon could see at least a sevenfold expansion of solar power.

In an unprecedented ruling, a judge reviewing whether Xcel Energyshould invest in new natural gas generators vs. large solar power arrays concluded Tuesday that solar is a better deal.

If the finding by Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman is upheld by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Edina-based Geronimo Energy plans to build about 20 large solar power arrays on sites across Xcel’s service area at a cost of $250 million.

“It says solar is coming in a big way to the country and to Minnesota,” Geronimo Vice President Betsy Engelking said of the ruling.

Geronimo’s Aurora Solar Project would receive no state or utility subsidies, but would qualify for a federal investment tax credit. Engleking said it is the first time in the United States that solar energy without a state subsidy has beaten natural gas in an official, head-to-head price comparison.

“The cost of solar has come down much faster than anyone had anticipated,” she said in an interview. “This is one of the reasons solar is going to explode.”

The largest of the Geronimo projects would be five times bigger than the state’s largest solar array in Slayton, Minn. Some would cover up to 70 acres of land. The proposed sites are in 17 counties, mostly in central, eastern and southeastern Minnesota.

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