Minnesota regulators approve state's largest solar project

Minnesota regulators approve state's largest solar project
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Regulators in Minnesota have approved a $250 million, 100-megawatt solar project, the state's largest, which will help a utility company comply with a local solar power mandate. 

The state's Public Utilities Commission voted 3-0 Thursday to approve the project, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, giving a local company permission to build 21 solar farms in rural areas outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area.


The project increases the state's solar output "sevenfold," according to the Star Tribune. Developers intend to begin generating electricity at the new solar sites by the end of 2016.

The utilities commission denied the project developer's request to build three other solar sites, given their proposed locations near residential areas or commercial development. Minnesota law lets state regulators approve energy projects regardless of local zoning laws, but a utilities commissioner said her panel was "particularly sensitive in having it go as smoothly with local units of government as possible." 

Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy will purchase the power generated by the new solar arrays. A 2013 law mandates Minnesota utilities get 1.5 percent of their power from solar by 2020. 

The project is expected to be a first in a new wave of solar installments in the state. Xcel has signed deals with three other developers looking to build solar projects, including one as largest as that approved on Thursday.