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The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has ruled that Xcel Energy must incorporate Geronimo Energy's proposal for a utility-scale distributed generation (DG) solar project in its power generation development plan.

Betsy Engleking, vice president of Geronimo Energy, says the ruling directs Xcel Energy to negotiate a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the developer.

"Subject to the commission's approval of the PPA, Aurora Solar will go forward," she says.

The Aurora Solar Project is a 100 MW DG solar power system that will incorporate up to 25 photovoltaic arrays ranging in size from 2 MW to 10 MW throughout 16 Minnesota counties. The project will interconnect to multiple Xcel Energy substations and provide energy and capacity for the local distribution network.

Engleking says the unique nature of the DG solar project could complicate the PPA negotiation process. Geronimo Energy is pursuing a state site permit for the project that would avoid local zoning approval and is hoping to be able to negotiate a single PPA covering all of Aurora Solar's component arrays.

The PUC ruling also directs Xcel to negotiate PPAs for one or more of three gas-fired plants under consideration.

"The commission decided that there is definitely a need for new energy resources from both solar and natural gas," Engleking says.

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