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New Peak Power Capacity Should Use Solar, Not Gas

| Written by John Farrell | 5 Comments | Updated on Apr 17, 2013 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

It’s parochial, since I’m a Minnesota resident, but I just can’t stand that our state’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, is planning to use ratepayer money to buy three new natural gas fired peaking plants instead of a) installing solar power or b) supporting the proposed solar energy standard.  Share the graphic below if you agree:

Xcel Energy should use solar for peak power

FYI, if you question the claim about “cheaper,” I estimate that commercial-scale rooftop solar in Minnesota will install for approximately $2.11 per Watt by 2020, with a levelized cost of 12.9¢ per kilowatt-hour (9.4¢ with accelerated depreciation and a 10% federal ITC), no fuel cost and no fracking.

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About John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power. More

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  • Jim Romlein

    John, I can certainly see why they would support Gas. If they supported Solar – fast forward and you would see that their business model would have changed like the phone companies has. This is a business decision – not a decision for the betterment of the planet or the people of our neighbor state.

  • realjoe

    John, I am a staunch supporter of solar and certainly agree with your sentiment. Yet, I am confused about your suggested use of solar to supply peak power. It seems that solar, as an intermittent supply source might not always be generating sufficiently to supply peak loads. Please help me understand your suggested application of solar. Thanks.

    • Solar’s has a very high capacity factor during peak periods and, when it is geographically dispersed, has much less intermittency than you might imagine. The California PUC, for example, rates solar at a 60% capacity factor during peak energy demand periods.

  • Hi, Here in Boulder we are fellow Xcel customers. Our thoughts are with you. The new $1.5+ billion COAL plant we have here, and which is now blocking growth of renewables, is certainly another example of poor investment decisions on Xcel’s part. Or rather “good” investment decisions if you’re an Xcel shareholder, but damn the planet. Our outmoded regulated monopoly business model for utilities – more capital expenditure = more profit – has GOT to change!

  • Anne B. Butterfield

    Hey John – check out what Xcel in CO has done – bought solar BECAUSE ITS AS AFFORDABLE AS GAS (utility grade)… meanwhile they’re trying to shut down net metering with a lame study that disregards (and aims to downgrade) the value of distributed generation.