Great River Energy, wholesale power provider to 28 member-owner distribution cooperatives in Minnesota, continuously studies the electric power grid to ensure the high-voltage power line system that delivers electricity to local cooperatives is always reliable, and ready to keep the power flowing and the lights on.
“Great River Energy works very closely with our region’s grid operator to make sure when they design a plan for our region’s electric system, it will serve our members well in terms of both reliability and affordability.”Priti Patel, Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Transmission Officer
The addition of renewable energy, along with the retirement of coal plants and the increasing need for resilience to extreme weather, is spurring the need for power grid upgrades to maintain future reliability. Utilities across the region are significantly increasing the amount of renewable energy they provide to their customers. Great River Energy alone will nearly triple the amount of renewable energy, primarily wind energy, in its portfolio by 2025.
“Building the right high-voltage power lines in the right locations at the right time will enable us to affordably connect more renewable energy to the system and maintain the high level of reliability that cooperative members expect,” said Gordon Pietsch, Great River Energy’s Director of Transmission Planning and Compliance.
Pietsch has worked at Great River Energy for 20 years and the electricity industry for 40 years.
“In the 2000s, Minnesota utilities worked with area transmission planners and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, our region’s grid operator, to develop a plan to expand and upgrade the region’s electric grid,” Pietsch said.
Together Minnesota utilities built more than 600 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, creating new pathways for renewable energy and bolstering reliability.
“Those transmission lines continue to deliver what they were intended to, and now we are seeing the need for another expansion as our fleet of power generation sources transitions,” Pietsch said.
Priti Patel, Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Transmission Officer, said the cooperative is “laser focused” on ensuring the right projects are built to supply its member-owners with reliable, affordable energy.
“Great River Energy works very closely with our region’s grid operator to make sure when they design a plan for our region’s electric system, it will serve our members well in terms of both reliability and affordability,” Patel said.
The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) seeks input from the utilities in the region during its planning process. Patel said Great River Energy takes its role in that process seriously to “engage and collaborate with other transmission owners and MISO to build a vision for the future of the region’s electric grid.”
“We have been working with MISO for years in their long-range transmission planning process and offer input into the projects they approve for our region,” Patel said. “We know our members and our system better than anyone. We are always advocating for what is best for our members.”