utilities

Xcel powering up with no-carbon juice

Xcel Energy made an ambitious announcement last week, pledging to provide 100 percent carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050.

By 2030, the Minneapolis-based utility pledges to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent from 2005 levels in the eight states it serves.

While Xcel is confident it can meet the 2030 goals using current technology, it said it is counting on other technology to either be developed or made more cost-efficient to meet the 2050 goal, which it said would be the most far-reaching in the U.S. power industry.

“Our goals are ambitious, and achieving them requires a long runway,” said President and CEO Ben Fowke in a statement. “We’re starting the conversation today to make sure we can achieve this groundbreaking transition while continuing to keep energy affordable and reliable for customers.”

During the past decade, Xcel has proved a national leader in renewable energy and is the largest wind-energy provider among U.S. utilities.

It already has staked out an Upper Midwest electricity generation mix that would be 85 percent carbon-free by 2030 (including Xcel’s two nuclear plants). It achieved ahead of schedule its state goal for 2017 of 25 percent of electricity from renewables.

Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said the 2050 goal is “an act of true leadership.”

Catherine Roberts

energy

IPS Solar lands $1.5M state contract

Roseville-based IPS Solar will begin installing solar arrays next year around the State Capitol complex at a cost of about $1.5 million.

The five sites will generate about 2 percent of the power needed to run the multibuilding complex.

However, Eric Pasi, IPS chief development officer, said the state should save about $87,000 annually on cheaper energy and retire the cost of the project within 15 years. The payback is longer because the state does not qualify for tax credits that subsidize projects for private clients by up to 30 percent through 2020. The state Department of Administration selected IPS as part of a competitive-bidding process.

“IPS Solar … has put down deep roots since 1991,” Pasi said. “To help the state meet clean energy goals is very special to us.”

Minnesota ranks among the top five states in annual installation of solar power.

Pasi cited a recent study by Clean Power Research that concluded Minnesota could achieve 10 percent solar generation of electricity by 2025 at costs comparable to dirtier natural gas generation.

The report found expected cost decreases in solar, wind and storage will enable Minnesota to achieve 70 percent solar and wind by 2050 at costs comparable to natural gas generation.

IPS has grown from 7 to 40 employees since 2014 and employed hundreds of contract workers over the same time period.

Neal St. Anthony

high technology

Uponor, others win Tekne awards

Uponor North America, the high-test plastic piping manufacturer for plumbing, heating and cooling systems, was a winner this month at the annual Tekne Awards of the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA).

The winners span sizes and business models but share an innovative approach to technology in categories including advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, cybersecurity and community impact, according to MHTA.

“This year’s Tekne Award winners exemplify the diversity and strength of Minnesota’s innovative economy,” said Margaret Anderson Kelliher, CEO of MHTA. “The selected organizations all continuously challenge the status quo of the science and technology industries …”

Finland-based Uponor, which won in “building design and infrastructure,” has expanded its North American headquarters in Apple Valley to more than 700 employees this year, including acquisition and renovation of a Hutchinson plant and several expansions in recent years of its flagship campus.

The Tekne judges said Uponor’s “intelligent plumbing and climate solutions” are “trusted products that move water where it needs to go” and that the company is making a difference in “conserving water and energy, supporting the future of skilled labor, and creating healthier places to live and work.”

Others among the 16 winners include: OATI, for its work on the electrical “grid of the future;” Land O’Lakes, the farmer-owned cooperative, for the growth of its dairy and crop-and-animal production systems that “optimize value” of crops through refining and improved products; Carrot Health, a software firm that uses consumer data to provide insights that allow intervention early enough to avoid medical crisis and more expense; and Charter Solutions, a 21-year-old firm that provides data analysis and IT professional services.

Neal St. Anthony