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Minnesota Plans to Retire 1,829 MW of Coal and Replace it with 7,200 MW of Wind, Solar, and Gas

There may not be a better way to demonstrate how expensive and ineffective Minnesota’s energy policies are than to point out that utility companies plan on retiring approximately 1,800 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired power plants and replacing this capacity with 7,200 MW of wind, solar, and natural gas.

In other words, utility companies believe they will need to build four times as much electricity generating capacity to replace the coal plants they are retiring. This will be incredibly expensive.

According to utility companies’ annual reports, Xcel EnergyOtter Tail Power CompanyMinnesota Power, and Great River Energy plan on adding 3,250 MW of wind energy and 1,750 MW of solar energy to Minnesota’s energy market. In addition to those investments, these utility companies must also build 2,200 MW of natural gas-fired power plants to “back up” renewable energy sources when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.

Wind energy advocates like to pretend that wind is the least expensive form of electricity, but in reality it is more expensive than our current electric fleet because wind turbines only generate about 33 percent of their potential capacity. As a result, our energy system needs to “overbuild” wind generation capacity to make up the difference. On top of that, we need to build reliable power plants–i.e., natural gas–as backups.

In the end, we all pay much more to keep our lights on.

Isaac Orr is a Policy Fellow, and Mitchell Rolling is an intern, at Center of the American Experiment.