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Renewable energy represents an important and growing part of Great River Energy’s power supply portfolio. Great River Energy serves its members with a variety of generation resource types, including renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydropower and waste-to-energy. We also consider energy efficiency and demand side management resources in our future plans. We regularly evaluate our power supply portfolio and are transitioning it to meet our members’ changing resource needs. We will be increasing the portion of energy we receive from renewable sources in the coming years. Last year, we closed one of our coal-based generation stations. In 2015, we terminated a long- running agreement to purchase the output from a coal-based power plant in southwestern Wisconsin.
The 2007 Minnesota Legislature adopted a renewable energy standard (RES) requiring that at least 25 percent of electric utility annual energy sales come from renewable energy by 2025. Great River Energy has already met Minnesota’s renewable energy standard of 25 percent renewable energy in 2017 – eight years ahead of the state’s requirement.
In August 2013, the Great River Energy board of directors passed a resolution calling on us to reduce our exposure to future greenhouse gas regulations. We are currently working to further reduce emissions at our generating facilities, and we plan to meet future load growth with conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, natural gas and market purchases. We support the gradual increase of wind resources into our portfolio, at a pace that allows utilities and consumers to find new ways to better use wind-generated electricity. We believe Minnesota’s current goal of 25 percent renewables by 2025 can accomplish that.
Great River Energy currently has long-term contracts for 469 megawatts of wind energy. We also use wind energy to supply a portion of the energy needs of our headquarters building in Maple Grove. Additionally, our member cooperatives offer the voluntary Wellspring wind program, which allows consumers and businesses to purchase some or all of their energy from renewable resources at a slight added cost.
Great River Energy recently signed a purchase power agreement for a new 300-megawatt (MW) wind project to be built in North Dakota. Construction on this wind project is slated to begin in 2019 and to be completed by the end of that year. We have also signed another agreement that will add 100 MW of wind in Minnesota beginning in 2021.
Great River Energy installed a 2.25-MW solar array in partnership with member Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association in Rockford, Minn., and another 1-MW solar project with member Dakota Electric Association of Farmington in Marshan Township, Minn. 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 their service area. 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. They may also offer the Wellspring solar program which allows homeowners to purchase solar energy for their homes.
Great River Energy obtains renewable biomass energy from the Elk River Resource Recovery Project, which uses refuse-derived fuel to generate electricity. The power plant burns processed municipal waste, reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills by 300,000 tons annually.
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. Some of this carbon-free energy, however, is not considered renewable under the Minnesota RES.
Great River Energy also purchases approximately 25,000 megawatt-hours of electricity generated through methane gas collection in Elk River, Minn.
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.
Due to the intermittent and unpredictable nature of most renewable energy resources, energy storage can assist in helping to maintain reliability of the electric grid. Great River Energy believes 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. Great River Energy and its member cooperatives are able to store a gigawatthour of energy each night by controlling the electric resistance water heaters of 65,000 end-use members.
Great River Energy continues to monitor battery technology for cost-effective storage. We are engaged with a number of stakeholders to understand and evaluate this growing technology.
February 1, 2018