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Solar energy site
planned near Tracy

A large solar power collection project has been proposed near Tracy.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported last week that Xcel Energy has signed contracts with three companies to construct solar collection sites near three state communities.

Two of the projects would be built in Lyon County.

In a filing with state regulators, Xcel Energy reported that a 25-megawatt solar array would be built near Tracy.  Juwi Solar, based in Boulder, Colo, would construct the facility.

A 62-megawatt system, constructed by Nextera Energy Resources based in Juno Beach, Fla., would be built near Marshall.

The third proposed project is a 100-megawatt solar generator near North Branch that would be based in Radnor, Pa.  Xcel, in its filing, indicated that the North Branch project would be unnecessary, if regulators okay a 100-megawatt solar project by Geronimo Energy, based in Edina, that would also serve Xcel customers.

Dennis Fultz, chairman of the Tracy Economic Development Authority, said he was aware of the proposed solar array near Tracy. 

He said that it was his understanding that land near the electrical sub-station on the northwest edge of Tracy is a possible site for the solar array.  The sub-station is located just a mile from a major transmission line north of Tracy. 

Fultz said that Xcel is contemplating three modest-sized solar projects, rather than one large array, to spread out the risk of severe damaging a site. 

Robert Gervais, Tracy EDA director, said that Juwi Solar had been in contact with his office to discuss possible sites for the Tracy solar array.  Initial conversations nearly a year ago mentioned 20 acres, Gervais said,  but he said he really didn’t know how much land would be needed.  “It could be considerably more.”

According to Xcel’s state filing, the Tracy project would use solar panels that can rotate on an axis, to track the sun as it moves across the sky, and thereby generate more electricity than stationary panels. 

Fultz said the solar panels would be designed to allow the possible grazing of livestock on the site.  The solar array could result in 1-3 permanent jobs, and 15 in the construction phase, he said.

The Xcel Energy filing said the three solar projects would be completed by the end of 2016, in order to comply with a new renewable energy mandate in Minnesota.  Xcel said that the three proposed projects would generate enough electricity to power 41,000 homes.

A state renewable energy law, enacted in 2013, requires investor-owned utilities to generate 1.5% of their electricity from the sun by 2020.

Efforts to reach Juwi Solar representatives for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday.