Great River Energy is in the midst of its long-range transmission planning process, coordinating with its 28 member-owner cooperatives and other utilities to determine where transmission improvements will be needed in the future.
According to Dave Kempf, manager of transmission planning engineering, many transmission projects in the past were driven by growth in the use of electricity, but a lot has changed in the energy industry.
“Now many more of our projects may be driven by the addition of large spot loads, coal plant retirements and the addition of renewable resources on the transmission system,” Kempf said.
“Grid modernization is now a major factor as well. Technology has come a long way in 10 years and the electric system has evolved considerably with ongoing additions of distributed generation.”
Grid modernization is a term being used to describe continuously improving the flexibility and resilience of the electric grid in light of evolving customer needs, new technologies and distributed generation.
Prior to identifying the need for a transmission project, planning engineers consider alternatives to transmission, such as load management solutions, distributed energy resources (such as solar panels and storage) and solutions that can be made on the distribution system.
“Sometimes investments like these can delay large transmission investments for years,” Kempf said.
The transmission needs identified within the long-range plan will be provided to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator for stakeholder input.
It will also be submitted to the State of Minnesota during the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s biennial transmission planning process in 2019. In odd-numbered years, 16 utilities are required to file the joint report to alert the public and regulators of potential upcoming projects.