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Xcel Energy earns perfect score on "Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality" by the Human Rights Campaign

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (Dec. 7, 2016) – Xcel Energy has been selected among the nation’s top corporations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality by earning a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2017 Corporate Equality Index (CEI).

“At Xcel Energy, we are committed to our corporate values, including that of promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion and treating all people with respect,” said Darla Figoli, senior vice president, human resources and employee services, Xcel Energy. “We are dedicated to developing a work environment where employees feel valued and one which allows us to attract and retain the best and brightest talent.” Read more

Storm Derbris Becomes Energy to Power Duluth

Many people mourned losing beautiful and familiar trees right out of their yards, but those trees didn’t die in vain.

Those trees are actually being converted to energy at the Hibbard Energy Center in Duluth, to power more than 20,000 homes in the community, for around 2 weeks.

"We bring it in on a truck and it goes in to the facility, and we run it through a boiler to create steam," said Frank Frederickson, the General Manager of Minnesota Power's Hydro and Biomass Renewable Operations. "We have two uses for steam. One is, we send a steam supply to the Verso Paper Mill 24/7, 365 days a year, and the 2nd use for the steam is to spin an electric generator to create the dispatchable renewable energy for our customers." Read more

Answer Man: Rochester gas pipeline steaming ahead

Dear Answer Man, what's the next step for the natural gas pipeline planned for Rochester? There were public meetings recently but they didn't get much coverage.

No, they didn't, but the process is steaming ahead, and a big ruling is expected on Wednesday.

First, the basics. It's a 13.1-mile natural gas pipeline around the west and south sides of the city, costing about $44 million and proposed by Minnesota Energy Resources Corp. As I reported in September, the plan was announced in January, it's now going through the regulatory mill, and if approved, construction would next year and high-pressure gas would flow by 2020. Read more

Xcel Energy named recipient of the 2016 ReliabilityOne™ Award for outstanding reliability performance in the Plains Region

SAN DIEGO (Nov 18, 2016) – Last night, Xcel Energy was recognized by PA Consulting Group, Inc. as the recipient of the 2016 ReliabilityOne™ Award for Outstanding Reliability Performance in the Plains Region.

ReliabilityOne™ Awards are given annually to the utilities that have achieved outstanding reliability performance and have excelled in delivering the most reliable electric service to their customers.

“We appreciate this honor recognizing Xcel Energy’s exceptional record of reliable and safe energy service,” said Kelly Bloch, Regional Vice President, Distribution Operations. “The award is the result of the hard work and dedication of our employees who are committed to meeting and exceeding the expectations of our customers and the communities we serve.” Read more

Otter Tail Power Company announces purchase of new wind farm in North Dakota

Customers will receive approximately 28 percent of their energy from wind

FERGUS FALLS, Minn., Nov. 17, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Otter Tail Power Company signed agreements to purchase a 150-megawatt (MW) wind farm in southeastern North Dakota that EDF Renewable Energy will design and build in 2019. The company expects the project to cost more than $250 million and the wind farm to generate enough electricity to power more than 65,000 homes. Read more

Permit approved for Minnesota Power transmission line

The U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday announced it has issued a so-called presidential permit giving federal approval for Minnesota Power's plan to bring electricity into Minnesota from northern Manitoba hydroelectric dams.

The permit approves the cross-border aspects of the Great Northern Transmission Line, in the works since 2012, and Minnesota Power officials declared it the last major regulatory hurdle before construction can begin on the power line early next year.

State regulators in February approved the route for the 500-kilovolt line. Electricity generated by a new dam in northern Manitoba will start moving to Minnesota Power customers in 2020. Read more

‘Flicker’ disagreement could delay Minnesota community solar

A dispute with Minnesota’s largest utility over a technical standard could delay several of community solar projects in the state.

Developers say the issue of “flicker,” or power fluctuation, has been a chief roadblock in getting projects off the ground. Those who have brought cases before Minnesota regulators include Sunshare, GreenMark Enterprises, LLC and Sunrise Energy Ventures.

Other solar companies have expressed concern and are likely to have their projects subjected to a second study by Xcel Energy.

It’s a complex issue involving how power being created by solar farms will impact the grid when clouds roll over and voltage sags, or increases as the sun appears. That kind of fluctuation could degrade electrical distribution services in areas near community solar.

Initially Xcel employed a flicker standard of 1.5 percent, basing that on research developed in the utility industry in the 1920s.

Xcel has agreed to restudy as many as 37 community gardens potentially impacted by flicker at a 2 percent threshold, according to Lee Gabler, who oversees the program for the utility.

The utility is restudying 16 projects that will generate 71 MW and will have results by the end of 2016. Another 13 projects with 61 MW could be restudied but currently have a dispute with Xcel that is being examined by a third party arbiter known as the “independent engineer.” Read more

Sustainable: Solar energy growing fast in Minnesota

In three rural areas near the Twin Cities, new community solar gardens will be turned on in November, representing another example of what has become a booming market in Minnesota for electricity generated by the sun.

The three projects are owned by Roseville-based Innovative Power Systems, one of the state’s pioneering solar firms. To manage not only community solar gardens but also a host of commercial projects, the firm has doubled its workforce to 24 employees over the past 12 months and moved to a more spacious office, according to Eric Pasi, vice president of business development.

“We’re seeing a lot of growth in the commercial and industrial markets, and community solar,” Pasi said. “That represents 99 percent of our growth. We’re finding commercial real estate investors interested in doing solar are getting a return similar to other real estate investments.” Read more

Xcel Energy begins switch to more efficient LED streetlights in Twin Cities metro area

MINNEAPOLIS (Nov.1, 2016) – Xcel Energy is bringing the economic, environmental and aesthetic benefits of high-efficiency LED streetlights to its Minnesota communities. The upgrade of more than 600 streetlights in Richfield began this week. Following Richfield, upgrades will begin in Bloomington then Edina.

Richfield is one of the first cities in the Twin Cities metro that will benefit from the conversion, which will take place in nearly 350 Minnesota communities over the next two and a half years. The effort focuses on converting about 90,000 Xcel Energy-owned streetlights from cobra head-style, high pressure sodium fixtures to new, more energy-efficient fixtures using LEDs.

“The installation of LED streetlights in Minnesota is another way Xcel Energy is making investments in technology that improves customer service and our environmental performance,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota. “Additionally, LED streetlights will help control costs and enhance safety for the communities we serve. “We’re excited to begin installation here in Richfield as we continue to roll out LED lighting across Minnesota.” Read more

Director of Citizens Utility Board says new group will target energy cases, policy in Minnesota

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) has landed in Minnesota. Its main mission: To advocate for consumers when utilities want to raise the light or gas bills. The concept in Minnesota comes from Illinois, where the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) has represented ratepayers since 1984. The Illinois CUB was created by that state’s legislature to represent the interests of consumers and small businesses in rate cases. Here in Minnesota, two government bodies — the attorney general’s office and the commerce department — officially look out for the public interest in rate cases. But there are nonprofit groups that still represent consumers — particularly elderly and low-income residents — as well as those that push for clean energy. Minnesota CUB, which opened its doors in June, will do both, though its primary focus is rates. The Minneapolis CUB is a separate organization from its counterpart in Illinois. The organization was created with a two-year, $400,000 grant from the Minneapolis-based McKnight Foundation, one of the country’s largest foundations. CUB Minnesota’s first project has been working on Minnesota Power’s rate proposal that would increase residential customers’ bills after industrial customers, especially on the Iron Range, see a decrease. Annie Levenson-Falk was hired as CUB of Minnesota’s first executive director. She has an extensive background in energy policy, previously working with Minnesota’s Citizen’s League and the state’s Legislative Energy Commission, The Star Tribune talked with her recently at CUB’s downtown St. Paul office. Read more