Great River Energy moves on renewable energy transition

$882 million wind development nearly completes cooperative’s plans for renewable transition.

With long-term agreements to purchase the output from four large wind energy projects, Great River Energy has secured energy resources to transition to a largely renewable power supply portfolio by 2023.

Great River Energy has signed agreements with subsidiaries of NextEra Energy Resources to receive more than 700 megawatts (MW) of energy from four wind farms located primarily in southern and southwestern Minnesota.

“We are proud to serve our membership with low-cost energy from our own home state,” said Great River Energy President and Chief Executive Officer David Saggau. “These projects are not only good for our cooperative member-owners, they are good for Minnesota’s economy.”

A University of Minnesota Extension economic impact study found the projects represent an $882 million investment and will contribute nearly $440 million of additional economic activity within the state, including $173.2 million in labor income. They will also support 2,590 jobs across all industries, including direct jobs at the construction sites and ripple effects.

“These projects will produce emission-free energy, lower electric rates and provide a much-needed boost as Minnesota’s economy recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Saggau added.

Great River Energy plans to interconnect three of the four new wind farms to the electric grid through existing Great River Energy “peaking plant” facilities, which will continue to provide core reliability for the grid. Strong transmission at these sites makes them ideal locations for new renewable projects.

“We are pleased to partner with Great River Energy to help bring low-cost, renewable energy to their members,” said NextEra Energy Resources President and Chief Executive Officer John Ketchum. “Due to increased customer demand for renewable energy, finding ways to connect new resources to the electric grid can be challenging. Great River Energy worked with our company to find an innovative way to bring additional renewable energy to market by using existing transmission resources.”

Great River Energy’s fleet of fast-starting natural gas peaking plants provide year-round reliability services for members’ electricity needs and the regional grid while enabling significant growth of energy supply from renewable sources. These peaking plants also help protect consumers from high market prices while emitting relatively small amounts of carbon dioxide.

Great River Energy forecasts its power supply transition will significantly reduce power costs for its member-owner distribution cooperatives that purchase wholesale electricity from Great River Energy.

“The decision to power our system with new sources of wind energy is in line with our mission to provide member-owners with affordable, reliable energy in harmony with a sustainable environment,” said Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Power Supply Officer Jon Brekke.