Xcel to Retire Two Units at Its Largest Coal-Fired Plant

Xcel Energy said on Oct. 2 that the company would accelerate its transition from coal power to cleaner energy sources by retiring two units at its Sherburne County Generating Plant (Sherco) in Becker, Minn. The decision is part of the company’s strategy to cut carbon emissions 60% by 2030.

The Sherco plant is Xcel’s largest in terms of square feet, steam production, power generation capability, and coal consumption (Figure 1). Its three units have a combined capacity of 2,222 MW. Xcel is the sole owner of Units 1 and 2, which began commercial operation in 1976 and 1977 respectively, but Unit 3—an 860-MW unit added in 1987—is shared with Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, which holds a 41% stake in the unit.

1. Sherburne County Generating Plant.
Units 1 and 2 have a capacity of about 680 MW each, while Unit 3 is capable of generating 860 MW. Courtesy: Mike Hicks

In addition to shuttering Sherco Unit 2 in 2023 and Unit 1 in 2026, Xcel proposed developing new natural gas–fired generation at the Sherco site and in North Dakota. The company plans to keep its nuclear plants—Monticello and Prairie Island Units 1 and 2—in operation until their licenses expire in 2030, 2033, and 2034 respectively.

Xcel will also advance the pace of integrating wind and solar resources. It expects that 28% of its energy mix will be from renewable sources in five years, increasing to 35% by 2030. Energy efficiency programs are also expected to reduce the need for new generation.

“Today’s proposal provides the clean energy our customers want, as well as the cost-effective transition our customers need,” Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy-Minnesota, said in a press release announcing the proposal. “By allowing adequate time to transition our workforce and the communities we serve, we can meet their needs and lead the way in delivering carbon free energy.”

Xcel said it has met with a host of stakeholders to discuss the plan, including Sherco plant employees and officials from the city of Becker and Sherburne County. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is currently reviewing the proposal.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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