Meeting Utility Resource Needs with Solar

The Merits of the "Aurora Solar Project"

Last November, for the first time in the US, a utility-scale solar project was selected as the most cost-effective resource to meet the near-term needs of Xcel Energy, outlined in their 2011-2025 Integrated Resource Plan. With five types of resources considered, Geronimo Energy’s Aurora Solar Project won the initial bid, a reccomendation made by the Minnesota Administrative Law Judge. The project would provide 100 MW of distributed PV, aggregating power from up to 25 sites and illustrates the benefits of the competetive acquisition resource process for renewable energy and industry.

In this webinar, experts from the Minnesota-based developer talk about the company, the design and technical merits of the Aurora Solar Project, the challenges of competing against conventional fossil fuel generators, and the potential benefits to the utility, ratepayers, and the environment. Since Aurora is the first project of its kind, the presenters discuss grid operations, resource availability, and the potential impact of future value of solar tariffs.

If you missed the live webinar, you can download an audio recording and click through the slides below.

Target audience:

  • Solar Developers
  • Utility Policy Leaders & Resource Planners
  • Clean Energy Advocates
  • Energy Regulators
  • Regional Transmission Planners

Discussion points:

  • Geronimo background
  • Overview of project site, capacity, and innovations
  • Benefits of this project over other resource options
  • Replicability of project model 



Meeting Utility Resource Needs with Solar



Lindsey Hemly advises clients on permitting and regulatory compliance under environmental and health and safety laws, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, RCRA and CERCLA. Lindsey also assists with environmental review and land use and zoning matters. In her energy practice, Lindsey provides regulatory advice to clients on generator interconnection, transmission and permitting, and assists with the acquisition and development of wind, solar and other energy projects. Lindsey advises clients on compliance under federal energy laws, such as the FPA and PURPA, and represents clients in proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. She also counsels clients on the MISO Tariff and generator interconnection procedures. Prior to joining the firm, Lindsey worked as a student attorney in the Conservation Law Clinic in Bloomington, Indiana and as a legal intern for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 7 in Kansas City, Kansas.

Nathan Franzen came to Geronimo from Westwood Professional Services, where he was the Director of Solar Energy. His experience comprises of oversight and project management of over 100 commercial and utility-scale solar projects in 16 states, including overseeing project development, interconnection studies, engineering, and construction services. Nathan has a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs in Minneapolis and actively promotes renewable energy policy and regulatory framework at the local and national level.

Recording notes:

Due to technical difficulties, slides 11 and 12 were not recorded during the live broadcast. Below is a transcript of Lindsey Hemly's presentation:

Slide 11 - How Did We Get Here?  

In March of 2013, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission found that Xcel’s 2011 Integrated Resource Planning process demonstrated that Xcel had a need for up to 500 MW by 2019.  The Commission provided that Xcel’s need could be met by peaking or intermediate resources, but did not specify particular resource alternatives within those categories.

Because Xcel proposed to self-build resources to meet its need, the Commission required the solicitation of competitive proposals from other bidders, pursuant to what is referred to as the “Track 2” competitive resource acquisition process.  While not requiring a certificate of need, the process follows a “certificate-of-need-like-framework”, which applies the certificate of need criteria.  The Commission scheduled contested case proceedings through which an administrative law judge would issue recommendations to the Commission, and ultimately, the Commission would select the most reasonable and prudent alternative or alternatives.

Slide 12 - What Was Proposed? 

The Commission ordered Xcel to solicit bids by April 15, 2013.  The Commission received bids from Xcel, Invenergy, Calpine, GRE, and Geronimo.

[Refer to proposals on slide]

A contested case proceeding was commenced to evaluate the proposals.  The proceeding schedule included discovery, direct and rebuttal testimony, an evidentiary hearing and the parties then filed briefs.

The Department and Xcel both conducted Strategist modeling and their arguments and recommendations centered around the Strategist results.  Strategist is a resource planning software tool that uses multiple simulations to identify the lowest-cost combination of resources based on their present value of societal cost.

In addition to the Strategist modeling conducted by Xcel and the Department, Calpine offered a Lowest Levelized Cost of Energy analysis.  In comparing only the natural gas projects, the LCOE analysis showed Calpine as the lowest cost project, but when Geronimo’s Aurora project was added to the evaluation, Aurora was the lowest cost resource.

On December 31, 2013, after reviewing the record created in the contested case proceeding, the ALJ issued his report and recommendations to the Commission.

For more information:

Geronimo Energy Press Release on PUC Decision - March 2014

Administrative Law Judge Lipman's Recommendation - November 2013