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Renewable energy represents an important and growing part of Great River Energy’s power supply portfolio. Great River Energy and its members rely on a variety of generation resource types, including renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydropower. We also consider energy efficiency and demand side management resources in our future plans.
The 2007 Minnesota Legislature adopted a renewable energy standard requiring that at least 25 percent of electric utility annual energy sales come from renewable energy by 2025. Great River Energy met Minnesota’s renewable energy standard of 25 percent renewable energy in 2017 – eight years ahead of the state’s requirement. In 2018, Great River Energy voluntarily set a goal to serve its all-requirements member-owner cooperatives with energy that is 50 percent renewable by 2030. We are well on our way toward meeting this new goal.
Great River Energy believes that wind represents a very competitive new source of energy. Great River Energy believes that a state mandate for more renewable energy would be counterproductive – disadvantaging consumers by causing renewable energy prices to increase. Conversely, current market conditions for renewable energy allow utilities to reach higher percentages of renewables while benefiting member-consumers.
Great River Energy currently has 469 megawatts of wind energy in its portfolio. That amount is expected to more than double by 2022. Additionally, our member cooperatives offer the voluntary Wellspring subscription program, which allows consumers and businesses to purchase some or all their energy from renewable resources at a very competitive price.
Great River Energy recently signed a purchase power agreement for a new 300-megawatt wind project to be built in North Dakota. Construction on this wind project is slated to begin in 2019 and be completed by the end of the year. We have also signed another agreement that will add 100 megawatts of wind in Minnesota beginning in 2021.
Great River Energy installed a 2.25-megawatt solar array in partnership with member Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association in Rockford, Minn., and another 1-megawatt solar project in Dakota County with member Dakota Electric Association. Several of our members are currently developing additional distributed solar resources.
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 Minnesota. 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.
Great River Energy receives almost 10 percent of its energy from hydropower through long-term contracts with Manitoba Hydro and the Western Area Power Administration. This carbon-free energy resource is not considered renewable under the Minnesota Renewable Energy Standard, but it’s an important part of our portfolio.
Renewable resources have intermittent energy production due to weather patterns. Energy storage has potential to support renewable energy adoption. The multi-state MISO energy market itself represents the least expensive “storage” alternative for Great River Energy and its members. Beyond MISO, a cost-effective option for energy storage is through “community storage.” By aggregating distributed energy technologies and home appliances, Great River Energy and our members are developing community storage to increase energy efficiency, better integrate renewable energy resources onto the grid and reduce customers’ monthly electric bills. As an example, Great River Energy and its member cooperatives can store about one gigawatt hour of energy each night by controlling 65,000 electric resistance water heaters across Minnesota.
Great River Energy continues to monitor battery technology for cost-effective storage and one of our largest member cooperatives has installed its own distributed battery storage project. We continue to collaborate with our members and engage external stakeholders to better understand the costs and evaluate the future potential for this growing technology. Storage mandates will only serve to drive up costs without directly increasing renewable energy supply for Great River Energy. Market conditions alone should dictate storage need and adoption. If storage is beneficial, market prices will provide the signal to invest.
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.
Jan. 9, 2019