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Renewable energy represents an important part of Great River Energy’s generation portfolio. Great River Energy serves its members with a variety of resources, including renewable sources such as wind farms, solar arrays, hydropower facilities and waste-to-energy power plants. We regularly evaluate opportunities to add cost-effective renewable and fuel-free electricity. We expect to increase the portion of energy we receive from renewables in the coming years.
The 2007 Minnesota Legislature adopted a renewable energy standard (RES) requiring that at least 25 percent of electric utility annual energy sales come from renewable energy by 2025. Great River Energy is on track to meet the state’s RES. In 2016, our members received 17 percent of their total annual energy from renewable resources and renewable energy credits.
In August 2013, the Great River Energy board of directors passed a resolution calling on us to reduce our exposure to future greenhouse gas regulations. We are currently working to further reduce emissions at our generating facilities, and we plan to meet future load growth with conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, natural gas and market purchases. We support the gradual increase of wind resources, at a pace that allows utilities and consumers to find new ways to better use wind-generated electricity. We believe the current goal of 25 percent renewables by 2025 accomplishes that.
Great River Energy currently has long-term contracts for 469 megawatts of wind energy. We also use wind energy to supply a portion of the energy needs of our headquarters building. Additionally, our member cooperatives offer the voluntary Wellspring wind program, which allows consumers to purchase renewable energy at a slight added cost. We are finalizing plans to add additional wind resources to our portfolio.
Great River Energy installed a 2.25-megawatt solar array in partnership with member Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association of Rockford, Minn. Great River Energy and Dakota Electric Association are planning a 1-megawatt solar project in Marshan Township, Minn., that is expected to be energized in the spring of 2017.
Great River Energy’s headquarters site hosts more than 300 kilowatts of solar installations using a variety of technologies. We developed 19 additional solar installations (20 kilowatts each) at member sites throughout our service area. We voluntarily pursued these projects as a way to learn more about solar energy and identify efficient financing methods, technologies and configurations. Many of our member cooperatives have installed their own community solar projects as well. They may also offer the Wellspring solar program which allows homeowners to purchase solar energy for their homes.
Great River Energy obtains renewable biomass energy from the Elk River Resource Recovery Project, which uses refuse-derived fuel to generate electricity. The power plant burns processed municipal waste, reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills by 300,000 tons annually. Great River Energy subsidiary GRE Newport Services, LLC, was selected by the Ramsey/Washington Recycling and Energy Board to operate the Newport Resource Recovery Facility, which extracts recyclable materials and produces refuse-derived fuel for a renewable energy power plant.
Great River Energy receives 8 percent of its energy from hydropower through long-term contracts with Manitoba Hydro and the Western Area Power Administration. Some of this carbon-free energy, however, is not considered renewable under the Minnesota RES.
Great River Energy also purchases approximately 25,000 megawatt-hours of electricity generated through methane gas collection in Elk River, Minn.
Great River Energy’s first-of-its-kind RevoltTM program retires renewable energy credits from wind resources to ensure electric vehicles are driven by 100 percent renewable energy for the life of a vehicle. Our electric thermal storage programs apply wind energy produced during the overnight hours for efficient and affordable space heating and water heating.
Due to the intermittent and unpredictable nature of most renewable energy resources, energy storage can assist in ensuring reliability of the electric grid. Great River Energy believes a very cost-effective option for energy storage is “community storage.” By aggregating distributed energy technologies and home appliances, Great River Energy is developing community storage to increase energy efficiency, better integrate renewable energy resources onto the grid and reduce customers’ monthly electric bills. Great River Energy and its member cooperatives are able to store a gigawatthour of energy each night by controlling the electric resistance water heaters of 65,000 end-use members.
Great River Energy continues to monitor battery technology for cost-effective storage. We are part of the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance whose mission is to lead in the development of energy storage in Minnesota and the Midwest.
November 29, 2016