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David Shaffer

Reporter | Energy and business
phone: 612-673-7090
David Shaffer is a veteran reporter and editor for the Star Tribune, with more than three decades of experience on daily newspapers.
Recent content from David Shaffer
Farmer-owners of Corn Plus ethanol plant double down on their investment

Farmer-owners of Corn Plus ethanol plant double down on their investment

Farmers who own this ethanol plant in southern Minnesota refused to sell it — and are reinvesting so it can compete
Regulators OK largest solar energy project in Minnesota

Regulators OK largest solar energy project in Minnesota

Large arrays of solar panels that track the sun’s daily movement were approved at 21 sites across Minnesota to serve Xcel Energy electric customers.
Off-peak power rates for plug-in vehicle charging get regulators' OK

Off-peak power rates for plug-in vehicle charging get regulators' OK

The new rates, which take effect in about two months at Xcel Energy Inc. and two other utilities, could shave 40 percent or more off the cost.
Big industry, utilities win on energy legislation in Minnesota

Big industry, utilities win on energy legislation in Minnesota

But small-scale solar power generators face fees from municipal and cooperative utilities.
Xcel Energy gets permission from FAA to fly drones

Xcel Energy gets permission from FAA to fly drones

The utility will use them to inspect power lines and other energy structures, but only within the operator’s line of sight.
Xcel agrees to cut coal plant emissions to settle suit over haze in national parks

Xcel agrees to cut coal plant emissions to settle suit over haze in national parks

Settlement will end a lawsuit over haze affecting Voyageurs and Isle Royale national parks.

Regulators accept need for big northern Minnesota transmission line

The route of Minnesota Power's 220-mile transmission line from Canada to Grand Rapids is still to be decided.
Ethanol industry looks to drivers and exports for path out of a slump

Ethanol industry looks to drivers and exports for path out of a slump

After a weak start to 2015, industry sees strong exports, more fuel consumption.
N.D. oil train derailment, town evacuation restart Minnesota debate

N.D. oil train derailment, town evacuation restart Minnesota debate

No one was hurt in the spectacular derailment and blaze near the tiny town of Heimdal, but it comes as Minnesota officials debate spending for rail crossings.

Rapidly growing Allete Clean Energy invests in seventh wind farm

The latest acquisition, in Pennsylvania, comes less than a month after the company signed a deal to buy a wind farm in southwest Minnesota.
East Coast refineries get highest-ever share of crude from oil trains

East Coast refineries get highest-ever share of crude from oil trains

New federal figures for February show that 52 percent of the East Coast’s crude oil arrived by trains, the highest ever, and that most came from the Midwest.

Minnesota utilities flip switch on large segment of $2.1 billion CapX2020 transmission project

Transmission lines will help ease wind energy bottleneck.
Regulators toughen safety standards for rail cars carrying Bakken crude

Regulators toughen safety standards for rail cars carrying Bakken crude

Worried about increasing oil train traffic, the U.S. and Canada ordered cars to have thicker shells, more insulation and better valve structures.
Xcel Energy agrees to buy N.D. wind farm project

Xcel Energy agrees to buy N.D. wind farm project

The utility will complete the project being developed by Edina-based Geronimo Energy.

Interstate Power & Light sale to cooperatives in southern Minnesota wins approval

Twelve cooperative power companies will acquire the assets and 43,000 customers of the investor-owned utility.
Xcel Energy wants size limits on its Minnesota community solar gardens

Xcel Energy wants size limits on its Minnesota community solar gardens

The step, aimed at corporate projects, would cancel more than 80 percent of those proposed.

Enbridge Energy seeks OK for replacement crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota

The $2.1 billion pipeline would replace 1960s-era one across 337 miles of northern Minnesota.

Minnesota regulators approve 1.9 percent rate increase for Dakota Electric customers

Dakota Electric, the state’s second-largest retail electric cooperative, won regulatory approval Thursday to raise electric rates by 1.9 percent overall for its 103,000 customers in…
Truckers sue to end biodiesel mandate

Truckers sue to end biodiesel mandate

Minnesota’s 10 percent blend has hurt trucking firms, carmakers and the oil industry, the lawsuit says.

Macalester College commits to solar for its electricity

The St. Paul college joins St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., in going carbon-free.
N.D. sees second straight monthly drop in oil output

N.D. sees second straight monthly drop in oil output

Low oil prices have reduced the pace of drilling for Bakken oil and gas, and more wells are being left uncompleted, awaiting better times.
Judge supports Sandpiper pipeline in northern Minnesota

Judge supports Sandpiper pipeline in northern Minnesota

A PUC ruling is still ahead, but the opinion is a blow to environmentalists who oppose the Sandpiper project.
Bird flu hits four more Minnesota farms, three new counties

Bird flu hits four more Minnesota farms, three new counties

Outbreak spreads to three more counties, with 13 farms affected in all
North Dakota rigs take a big hit from oil's steep fall

North Dakota rigs take a big hit from oil's steep fall

The number of oil-drilling rigs in North Dakota has fallen to the lowest level in six years, triggering an estimated 3,000-4,000 oil field job losses that could get worse, a top state official said Thursday.
Political divide emerges over Minnesota energy policy

Political divide emerges over Minnesota energy policy

House bill would let utilities decide which renewable energy sources are cheaper.
Frac sand industry feels effects of low oil prices, less drilling

Frac sand industry feels effects of low oil prices, less drilling

As drilling rigs go idle, ripple effect means Minnesota, Wisconsin mines expect shipments to drop significantly
Xcel says two-year rate hike in Minnesota will be 6.1 percent

Xcel says two-year rate hike in Minnesota will be 6.1 percent

The overall electric rate increase is well short of earlier projections; specific rates for residential and businesses customers won’t be known for weeks.
BNSF says it will slow speed of oil trains through Twin Cities

BNSF says it will slow speed of oil trains through Twin Cities

The new speed limit will be 35 miles per hour, down from 40 mph in the Twin Cities.
Regulators approve rate hike for Xcel electric customers

Regulators approve rate hike for Xcel electric customers

Regulators approved the increase, but Minnesota customers of the power company won’t know the full effect on their bills for several weeks.
From this weekend: Enbridge says oil slowdown won't affect Minnesota pipeline projects

From this weekend: Enbridge says oil slowdown won't affect Minnesota pipeline projects

CEO Al Monaco sees no reduction in planned investments, and says Sandpiper and other oil pipeline projects are still needed.
Big solar parks proposed for Minnesota not so popular with neighbors

Big solar parks proposed for Minnesota not so popular with neighbors

Some neighbors worry about property values while cities say solar parks could jeopardize growth plans.
Obituary: Maureen Flahaven was leader on many local, state issues

Obituary: Maureen Flahaven was leader on many local, state issues

Maureen Flahaven, a civic leader and activist who played important roles working for DFL candidates, promoting Minnesota and rebuilding St. Paul’s downtown sports arena, died…
Dayton proposes spending $330 million to upgrade rail safety

Dayton proposes spending $330 million to upgrade rail safety

The proposal, which relies on legislative approval of a new annual assessment on the four major railroads in Minnesota, would fund major rail improvements in Coon Rapids, Moorhead, Willmar, and Prairie Island.

Regulators put off decision on Xcel Energy's request for size limits on solar gardens

Xcel Energy had raised concern about large projects but must proceed under current rules.
Xcel can't profit from Monticello cost overruns, regulators say

Xcel can't profit from Monticello cost overruns, regulators say

But Utilities Commission said company can’t collect profit on cost overruns.

Xcel asks for changes in solar garden rules

The utility said many proposed community solar projects are so big that they should be competitively bid.
Three Xcel projects will boost state's solar power tenfold

Three Xcel projects will boost state's solar power tenfold

Minnesota’s solar power production will skyrocket.

Iron Range air quality study triggers spat among scientists

Advisers to the study criticized sampling research borne out of the rate of Iron Range miners dying from mesothelioma.
More Iron Range miners stricken with rare lung cancer

More Iron Range miners stricken with rare lung cancer

A research update by the Minnesota Health Department says 101 mine workers since the 1930s contracted a rare, usually deadly cancer called mesothelioma.
April 13, 2013: U finds cancer risk grows with years on taconite job

April 13, 2013: U finds cancer risk grows with years on taconite job

But the five-year, $5 million study doesn’t fully answer question of whether the needle-shaped fibers in taconite dust are linked to mesothelioma.
Dec. 2, 2014: U study finds more evidence of harm linked to taconite dust

Dec. 2, 2014: U study finds more evidence of harm linked to taconite dust

Six-year study found that workers exposed to high levels of airborne mineral fibers were more than twice as likely to develop the cancer.
Biofuel innovators look for a breakout

Biofuel innovators look for a breakout

In a northeast Minneapolis laboratory, veteran chemical engineers think they have found a better way to produce biodiesel from waste grease.

Xcel Energy says proposed giant solar gardens don't look like 'community' projects

Many plans are getting around a requirement that they stay small, and Xcel says these big projects could cost ratepayers.
Drop in oil price squeezes ethanol producers

Drop in oil price squeezes ethanol producers

Low gasoline prices are easy on consumers but hard on the industry.

Energy interests pile on to N.D.-Minn. coal lawsuit

The clash is over interstate sales of coal-fired electricity.
Investigation: Xcel failures led to reactor cost overruns

Investigation: Xcel failures led to reactor cost overruns

Judge conducting inquiry cites management flaws as work at Monticello nuclear power plant ultimately cost twice what was projected.
Aug. 27, 2014: Xcel defends handling of Monticello nuclear plant upgrade

Aug. 27, 2014: Xcel defends handling of Monticello nuclear plant upgrade

Customers or investors will pay millions for work.
July 9, 2014: Xcel management blamed for cost overruns at Monticello nuke plant

July 9, 2014: Xcel management blamed for cost overruns at Monticello nuke plant

A key question is whether Xcel’s customers or investors will pick up the $345 million in cost overruns. Xcel is pushing regulators to make ratepayers pay the entire cost of the Monticello upgrade.
Ethanol industry gets its own corn

Ethanol industry gets its own corn

Yellow kernels of a hybrid called Enogen look like other corn, but they have just one purpose — making fuel. Six Midwestern ethanol plants now use the hybrid called Enogen, the first corn genetically enhanced for ethanol production.
Xcel proposes low-cost, off-peak rates for plug-in cars

Xcel proposes low-cost, off-peak rates for plug-in cars

Owners would charge them overnight and could pick wind power.
Xcel hopes to avoid 2016 electric hike in Minnesota

Xcel hopes to avoid 2016 electric hike in Minnesota

Top executives said they want to take a break from the annual electric increases in Minnesota.

Enbridge defends northern route for pipeline

At hearing, Enbridge said alternate southern route would be more expensive to ship N.D. oil to market.
Helped by oil trains, Canadian Pacific reports record profits

Helped by oil trains, Canadian Pacific reports record profits

Increase in traffic drove the railroad’s 2014 earnings higher.
Biofuel maker Gevo cuts staff to save cash

Biofuel maker Gevo cuts staff to save cash

Workers at Luverne production plant were not affected.
Minnesota study finds more preparation needed for oil disasters

Minnesota study finds more preparation needed for oil disasters

Local responders lack training, more coordination needed.
Drilling declines in North Dakota on low oil prices

Drilling declines in North Dakota on low oil prices

In some parts of the Bakken oil fields, rigs may be hard to find anymore with falling oil prices causing drillers to quit.

Ecolab signs deal, says it's going all-solar in Minnesota

Company reaches a deal with SunEdison to provide renewable energy for all of its Minnesota operations.
New Minnesota House energy chief drives a Tesla

New Minnesota House energy chief drives a Tesla

Republican Pat Garofalo supports electric vehicles, nuclear power and renewable energy but is not a fan of big subsidies for solar power.

Minnesota firm fined for power market manipulation

Twin Cities Power of Lakeville agreed to pay $4.3 million to settle manipulation charges.
REVIEW: 'The Girl on the Train,' by Paula Hawkins

REVIEW: 'The Girl on the Train,' by Paula Hawkins

FICTION: This thriller — told by an unreliable, not terribly likable narrator — is a riveting, confounding, frustrating and entertaining read.

Owners of two Minnesota wind farms file for bankruptcy court protection

The filing raises questions about whether small-scale projects can survive in the industry.
BNSF must provide emergency coal delivery plans

BNSF must provide emergency coal delivery plans

BNSF fought order sought by power companies and politicians to address low stockpiles in Minnesota and surrounding states.
Pipeline hearing draws near-even mix of support, opposition

Pipeline hearing draws near-even mix of support, opposition

The project across northern Minnesota would deliver oil from North Dakota to Wisconsin.
Xcel to double down on renewable energy in Minnesota

Xcel to double down on renewable energy in Minnesota

Lower prices for solar and wind farms make them better investments
Officials put price tag at $280M to upgrade safety of oil train routes

Officials put price tag at $280M to upgrade safety of oil train routes

The report, ordered by the Minnesota Legislature, identified the 100 highest-risk intersections when oil trains pose a risk because tracks cross roads and highways.

Judge recommends trimming Xcel's latest rate increase request

The judge rejected the utility’s request for a higher basic charge for electricity.
Alternatives to northern Minnesota crude oil pipeline also carry risks, study finds

Alternatives to northern Minnesota crude oil pipeline also carry risks, study finds

When state researchers compared the risks to waterways, wildlife and other natural resources, every pipeline route proposed across Minnesota had some faults.

Xcel gets 427 solar garden applications in Minnesota

The projects in Minnesota, if all built, would have the combined output of a major power plant.
Xcel opens door for community solar gardens

Xcel opens door for community solar gardens

The utility will begin accepting applications from developers to construct solar parks, and many are expected to show interest.

Allete Clean Energy acquires Iowa wind farm

The affiliate of Duluth-based Minnesota Power now owns four wind farms in the U.S.

Utility regulators authorize Xcel generating projects

The state’s largest solar project and largest gas-and-steam project win regulator approval.
N.D. oil production hits a lull amid plummeting prices

N.D. oil production hits a lull amid plummeting prices

N.D. officials said oil production in October declined by about 4,000 barrels per day to 1.18 million daily barrels compared with September. Drilling for new wells also declined.
Chris Clark named Xcel's Upper Midwest division president

Chris Clark named Xcel's Upper Midwest division president

Christopher Clark takes over Jan. 1 and is a 15-year veteran of Xcel.

As one solar company departs, another arrives in Minnesota

Solar Skies said it will close its Alexandria plant, while a Canadian company will open one in St. Paul.
North Dakota regulators order treatment of crude oil for safety

North Dakota regulators order treatment of crude oil for safety

A Minnesota official applauds the change, to make crude oil less volatile by reducing gases, but also said more can be done.
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