Xcel Energy to Bring Solar Microgrid to Minneapolis Neighborhoods

Xcel Energy will invest in sustainability by providing a resilience hub in three Minneapolis neighborhoods. They will install rooftop solar systems and battery storage in many neighborhood buildings. This investment is a part of Xcel’s Integrated Distribution Plan.

In 2019, Xcel Energy began an Integrated Distribution Plan focusing on its methods of electricity distribution for the next 15 years. The company aims for a net zero carbon by 2050 and to reduce carbon emissions by 80% in 2030. To achieve this, they started by installing more wind and solar-powered electricity for their customers and discouraging the use of coal in the company’s units.

The three resilience hubs will be in North Minneapolis, Sabathani Community Center, and the Minneapolis American Indian Center in South Minneapolis. The locations were carefully chosen based on their ability to keep disadvantaged residents safe from the effects of climate change.

Kim Havey, the sustainability director for Minneapolis city, said, ‘These sites will be our first response centers in emergencies. They will act as safe spaces from the weather and provide services such as food distributions, communications, energy, and as a triage center for community members seeking support.’

Three Minneapolis Public schools near Plymouth Avenue will house the hub in North Minneapolis. The buildings will supply the electricity in case of power outages due to a weather crisis. They will provide a cooling space, power for communication, refrigerated food, medical devices, and other services for people in the community.

Sabathani Community Center is an old African American non-profit organization that has provided food, shelter, and clothing to community members. The state has plans to modernize its grid and approved this project to that effect. Xcel will work on this $9 million project with a BIPOC-led organization to provide solar, battery storage, and microgrids at the proposed locations.

Partners of Xcel in this project include Renewable Energy Partners and Minneapolis American Indian Center. Renewable Energy Partners currently holds a green job training center on Plymouth Avenue, North Minneapolis. Additionally, Minneapolis American Indian Center will install a 200-kilowatt solar system, battery storage with a 1 megawatt per hour capacity, and a natural gas backup generator. It will implement these plans as a part of its $30 million capital renovation and expansion campaign.

The microgrid idea seems to be perfect considering the current hot summer. Some analysts say the project will serve as the first of many hubs. However, Synapse Energy Economics, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, and a consultant to the state criticized the project. They speculated that Xcel failed to define the project’s sustainable goals without considering alternative technologies with similar benefits. Notwithstanding, Xcel would learn about microgrids and their implementation in the project.

James Staples, the founder of Renewable Energy Partners, mentioned that the hubs should be in place by next year. ‘We’re in the community, and we work in the community. It is an opportunity for them to participate in skills training here in this building, then walk down the street and be able to go to work.’

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