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Xcel Energy's plans to build one of the nation's largest solar plants in Becker received final approval Thursday from Minnesota utility regulators. 

Sherco Solar will be the largest solar development in the Upper Midwest and the project is a key component of the utility's goal to triple the amount of solar on its Upper Midwest system by 2028, according to Xcel. 

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted unanimously to allow Xcel to recover costs for the project from its ratepayers, the Star Tribune reports.  

With the retiring Sherco coal plant in Becker to begin shutting down next year, with a completion date of 2030, labor unions and other state and local entities are applauding the solar project's mechanism to further power jobs and electricity in the community. 

Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) Minnesota & North Dakota lauded the project's approval Thursday. 

“As we reach the finish line, we are grateful to the Public Utilities Commission, the Walz Administration, and Xcel Energy for their leadership," stated Joel Smith, the president and business manager of LIUNA Minnesota and North Dakota. "We are ready to get to work building a cleaner future.”

According to Xcel, the project will support the creation of around 900 well-paying union construction jobs. Additionally, new workforce development program beginning next year will open new doors to historically underrepresented workers in the energy industry. 

“We would like to thank the City of Becker and our labor partners for their support for the Sherco Solar project,” stated Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with state and local communities to bring new jobs and capital investments as the Sherco coal plants retire and the Sherco Solar project moves forward.”

Xcel energy is striving to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. 

The first phase of Sherco Solar is expected to be completed in 2024 and the second phase in 2025. 

As part of its efforts to reduce its fossil fuel emissions, Xcel scrapped plans last year to build a gas plant on the Sherco site, instead shifting to smaller, less polluting facilities in other parts of the state, and boosting investment in wind and solar in Becker.

BMTN note: The broader trend of increasingly severe weather and record-breaking extremes seen in Minnesota and across the globe can be attributed directly to the rapidly warming climate caused by human activity. The IPCC has warned that Earth is "firmly on track toward an unlivable world," and says greenhouse gas emissions must be halved by 2030 in order to limit warming to 1.5C, which would prevent the most catastrophic effects on humankind. You can read more here.

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