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Xcel to shut down 2 units at Minnesota's biggest power plant by 2026

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Xcel Energy has announced it will shut down two out of three units at its Sherco coal-fired power station, Minnesota's largest power plant, by 2026.

As part of an energy strategy filed with state regulators Friday that also includes a commitment to develop 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy over the next five years, Xcel says it will shut down Sherco Unit 2 by 2023, with Unit 1 following 3 years later, Midwest Energy News reports.

A 50 megawatt solar installation will then be built on the site of one of the dismantled units in Becker the website notes, with the St. Cloud Times adding that the utility also intends to build a natural gas plant on the other site.

Fresh Energy claims the two 750 megawatt units at Sherco, which were built in the 1970s, are "by far" the largest single sources of carbon pollution in Minnesota.

"Our plan provides great certainty, focuses on the future and is the right commitment for our customers and our communities," Xcel Minnesota president Chris Clark told MPR, adding that its new strategy would reduce its carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2030.

The news organization notes it marks a change in tune from Xcel Energy, which in January said it would prefer to keep all three of its units open beyond 2030. But Clark notes that "several things have changed since then," including the implementation of the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which require power plants reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030.

The announcement comes after a study earlier this year found that shutting down the coal-fired units would have "little impact on reliability," but would prevent millions of tons of carbon emissions, and reduce environmental and health costs by $1.2 billion, according to Midwest Energy News.

The changes at the power station, which generates 2.4 megawatts of power between three units and is one of the main sources of baseload power to the Twin Cities, have been welcomed by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.

"Today, Xcel has shown leadership again in announcing an ambitious plan to transition from coal power to clean-energy sources," she said in a statement to media. "I am grateful to have them as partners in our united effort to turn Minneapolis' nation-leading Climate Action Plan into a reality."

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