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Minnesota Energy Resources files 2016 natural gas rate plan

EAGAN, MN – Minnesota Energy Resources Corp. (MERC), a subsidiary of WEC Energy Group (NYSE: WEC), today filed a request with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for a 5.47 percent overall increase in natural gas rates. MERC projects that the monthly bill for a typical residential customer will increase about $3.78.

The rate adjustment will enable MERC to invest in natural gas infrastructure upgrades to improve system reliability and enhance customer service.

Pending commission approval, an interim rate increase would begin Jan. 1, 2016. The requested interim rates would result in a monthly increase of $2 to $3 for a typical residential customer. Customer rates vary slightly, depending on the pipeline transporting the natural gas. Read more

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Xcel Energy will make key investments in the Prairie Island nuclear plant during the refueling outage that starts shortly, Site Vice President Kevin Davison said Tuesday.
New electrical generators and a step-up transformer — equipment that moves the power produced onto the transmission system — are among the items that have reached their 40-year lifespan, he said during the utility’s annual community breakfast. Read more

Xcel Energy completes first Minnesota solar garden

The first community solar garden has sprouted in Xcel Energy’s Minnesota service area — on a farm.

Utility officials, the project developer and its customers held an open house Friday at Vetter Farms near Kasota, Minn., where 96 ground-mounted solar panels now offset electricity used on the farm and by nearby homes.

It was a moment of good cheer amid continuing regulatory disputes over Xcel’s rollout of the shared-solar program under a 2013 state law. Nearly 1,300 other community solar garden applications remain in the pipeline. Xcel says about 100 have cleared a key engineering stage. Read more

Xcel Energy harvests bumper crop of renewable energy in Upper Midwest

MINNEAPOLIS — Xcel Energy today marked significant milestones in its leadership in delivering clean, renewable energy with the launch of its first community solar garden in Minnesota and breaking ground on a large wind farm in North Dakota. Read more

Xcel Energy to break ground on 200-MW wind park in N Dakota today

September 25 (SeeNews) - US utility Xcel Energy Inc (NYSE:XEL) will officially initiate the construction of the 200-MW Courtenay wind power plant in the US state of North Dakota on Friday afternoon.

The wind farm will be located near Jamestown in Stutsman county. It will use 100 pieces of Danish firm Vestas Wind Systems’ V100-2.0 MW machines.

Once fully operational in 2016, the wind park is expected to generate enough electricity to power about 105,000 local households annually. It is also estimated to yield roughly USD 850,000 (EUR 761,240) in tax revenue per year upon completion.

Xcel acquired the USD-300-million Courtenay project from its original developer, Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy, in April 2015. Approximately 200 construction jobs and 10 full-time ones will be created for the plant. Read more

MN utilities: Consumers will pay for tougher emissions rules

Three Minnesota utilities that rely heavily on coal-fired power say they expect electricity rates to go up under new federal carbon rules aimed at addressing climate change.
The tougher rules may force power companies to retire coal generating plants early in favor of renewable power. "When you replace old assets that still work with new assets, you're increasing costs, and so rates will go up as a result of this," Loren Laugtug, legislative affairs manager for Otter Tail Power in Fergus Falls, Minn., told state lawmakers Thursday.
"I don't know about total societal costs — that's a whole different issue — but at least rates for electric rate payers will go up," Laugtug added. Read more

Answer Man: When power usage is generally flat, why build a power line?

Dear Answer Man, you've been just about the only consistent source of local information on the CapX2020 power line. Can you remind me, why was this power line needed in the first place? Has power consumption been going up so much that a $2 billion power line was needed?

That's a very good question, and tough to answer because the information is always a little dated, the project spans a huge area and involves many power utilities with different needs, and infrastructure of this kind is built in anticipation of future demand. The CapX people would tell you that it's the largest power transmission system built in the state in 35 to 40 years, and that it was needed because the demand for electricity in the region has grown about 2 percent a year for the past decade.

It's about 800 miles long and will cost more than $2 billion when the final checks are written.

When I asked Tim Carlsgaard, communications and public affairs manager for Xcel Energy, to recap the rationale for CapX2020, he called this "the Carol Overland question," a reference to the activist attorney from Red Wing who was a leader in trying to stop the project. Read more

Siemens to provide long-term service at Bison Wind Energy Center in North Dakota

Siemens has signed a long-term agreement with the U.S. energy company Minnesota Power to provide service and maintenance for 149 D3-platform wind turbines installed at the Bison Wind Energy Center, located near New Salem, North Dakota. Read more

Major Environmental Upgrades at Boswell Almost Complete

Sitting just off the shore of Blackwater Lake, the new scrubber system at Boswell Energy Center in Cohasset is almost complete. A big part of the the BEC Unit 4 Retrofit project, it's the latest in Minnesota Power's plans to produce cleaner energy.

Inside the 250,000 square foot building is the most advanced utility technology, to reduce pollutants like mercury.

Lester Flem is the project manager. "We are 90% complete," he told us on Tuesday. There were up to 600 contractors on site working on the building, equipment, and connections to the boiler. "We tried to get as many local contractors as possible. But because so much is going on in construction, we had to also find workers from across the country," Flem added.

Unit 4 is the largest of the four coal-fired boilers at Boswell. The plant supplies power to the region's biggest industries, like mining and paper. Read more

Cities try to stay plugged in to the needs of electric car owners

Diane Rucker has spent a lot of time in the Southtown Shopping Center parking lot.

It used to be one of the few places in Bloomington where she could charge her electric car. But as she sat in her bright red Tesla on Friday, she peered at a map of plug-in options. She was surrounded.

The number of electric vehicles in Minnesota has more than doubled in the past few years, and communities from Hopkins to Ramsey are trying to figure out how to serve, and capitalize on, the growing market.

Local governments are following retailers’ lead and strategically locating electric vehicle charging stations — at libraries, regional parks and transit stations — in hopes of drawing more people. And officials are deciding just how much electric car owners should pay to top off. Read more