Pilot projects

For years, Great River Energy and its members have been finding exciting solutions and leading the pursuit of technologies, relationships and resources that will allow us to better use today’s changing energy grid and serve members in new ways. We have a number of pilot and demonstration projects in various stages of development. Here is a list of our projects and descriptions of just a few.

Battery electric school buses

Great River Energy and member cooperative Dakota Electric Association are demonstrating the performance of battery electric school buses. The objectives are to showcase new energy-efficient technologies, and demonstrate its performance in Minnesota’s cold climate and on longer, suburban and rural routes that reflect the unique service areas of Great River Energy’s member cooperatives.

Member and community solar initiative

Great River Energy began an effort in 2013 to develop and demonstrate distributed generation technologies, including solar and other non-traditional technologies, in collaboration with its member cooperatives. Great River Energy completed installing a 250-kW solar project in 2014 at its Maple Grove, Minn., headquarters. Solar arrays were then installed at sites owned by our member cooperatives. The installations were part of a series of 19 projects, each with an electricity generating capacity of 20 kW. The projects are helping to evaluate solar energy’s performance, maintenance requirements and impact on the grid.

Zero-net energy dairy

Great River Energy has joined the Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) Advanced Energy Communities Supplemental Project to evaluate the application of a zero-net energy dairy farm affiliated with the University of Minnesota-Morris West Central Research and Outreach Center. This project will evaluate how zero-net energy works in reality with farms and focus on understanding thermal energy flows and opportunities for heat recovery, electrification of thermal end uses and energy efficiency.

Grid-interactive water heaters

Country Joe Homes of Lakeville, Minn., is collaborating with Great River Energy and member cooperative Dakota Electric Association on a pilot project to install grid-interactive electric thermal storage water heaters in 81 homes in the company’s Legacy 2 housing development. Electric vehicle chargers, advanced air source heat pumps, Wi-Fi thermostats, comprehensive LED lighting technologies and energy efficient appliances also will be installed where possible. This development will provide a glimpse into what is possible when new housing developments combine advanced electric technologies and communications to shape end-use load curves that can better use variable generation resources, like wind and solar.

Data analytics

To help Great River Energy’s members get the value out of business intelligence and data collected through advanced metering infrastructure and meter data management systems, three of Great River Energy’s member cooperatives have worked with Great River Energy to demonstrate how the use of data analytics could be used to improve efficiency in their distribution systems. The projects focused on financial ratios, residential cycled air conditioner response programs and substation losses.

Distributed energy resources

The impact of distributed energy resources (DERs), such as solar installations, energy storage and demand response operations, on the electric system continues to grow. GRE and its members have four pilot projects related to DERs underway, including projects related to data management, hosting capacity, GIS best practices and an engineering software tool. Partners in these projects include the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and EPRI.

Conservation voltage reduction

Great River Energy and its members are researching ways to use conservation voltage reduction to decrease energy use, lessen their peak loads and reduce demand charges while continuing to serve their members within established voltage parameters.