Here comes the sun!...and the bill for $575 million!  Just last week, Minnesota utility regulators approved a huge solar project to be located in the area of Becker Minnesota about 20 miles southeast of St. Cloud.  I'm just curious if North Dakota will begin to financially embrace future solar farms in our state. Now before y'all get out your torches and pitchforks and join some social media mob...

I remember a time not so long ago we laughed at wind power.

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Now, these wind turbines have surpassed the telephone pole as the official state tree.

I guess I don't get out enough because, on my trips across the state this summer, I was genuinely surprised to see so many wind farms popping up across the prairie. So before you're so quick to say it's never going to happen in your backyard, don't be too shocked to see solar sneak into the state.

With a generous donation from the good folks in North Dakota.

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In my summer travels across the Midwest, I also saw quite a few solar farms.  That's just the view from the highway, I presume they are already also popping up all over the prairie. Just not on the scale of Xcel energy's Sherco Solar. AP News reports on the scale of the project.

The solar plant would cover 3,497 acres in the Becker area and would crank out 460 megawatts of electricity when the sun is shining. Currently, the largest single solar farm in Minnesota is Xcel’s 100-megawatt facility in Chisago County.

It will be the largest solar farm in the upper Midwest and is being built to help replace electricity that will be lost when over the next seven years they shut down the three coal plants also in the Becker area.  Project organizers are saying up to 900 construction jobs will be created to get the farm built. Jobs are nice, but so is keeping your $575 million in the bank. Here's the part that could dim solar's immediate future in OUR state-

Who's paying for this darn thing?

The state Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to allow Xcel Energy to recover costs for the new solar farm from the taxpayers. Commissioners touted the project for its environmental benefits and an expected economic boost.

The dirty fact is that these days people don't want dirty power.  Dirty power is the perception of coal-fired energy and there is a movement around the country to eliminate coal entirely. In Minnesota's case, the Public Utilities Commission seems to think the people of Minnesota are willing to pay a hefty price to do just that.


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