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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Xcel Energy has scrubbed plans for an $800 million natural gas plant in Becker in the face of criticism from environmental and clean energy groups.

Instead, the Minneapolis-based company said Friday it now plans to build two smaller natural gas plants — one each in southwestern Minnesota and North Dakota — at less than half the cost of the Becker plant.

The Star Tribune reports the new gas plants would operate only sporadically to even out renewable power production, not almost continuously like the planned Becker plant.

Xcel also said Friday it will increase its wind and solar power capacity by 27% over the next decade, more than previously planned. And for the first time, the company revealed plans for significant energy storage facilities in Minnesota.

Xcel had planned to build a roughly 800-megawatt natural gas-fired plant at its Sherco site in Becker, where three large coal plants currently operate. Xcel plans to close those plants — and all of its coal generators in Minnesota — between 2023 and 2030.

The two new gas plants would both have 400 megawatts of generating capacity but they would be “peaker” plants, running far less than the Sherco gas plant would have.

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