In 2020, SECC will be recognizing a member each month, providing an organizational profile and highlighting the member's accomplishments and output in the smart energy space.
Great River Energy is a not-for-profit wholesale electric power cooperative that provides reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electricity to 28 member-owner cooperatives that serve 700,000 member accounts in Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin. Like other cooperatives, Great River Energy is owned by the people they serve. They serve their members through a diverse portfolio of power supply resources and a dependable transmission system, all of which are part of the region’s energy market.
Great River Energy announced plans in the spring of 2020 to transform its portfolio of power supply resources in the coming years. The electric cooperative plans to phase out remaining coal resources, add significant renewable energy and explore critical grid-scale battery technology. These portfolio changes will deliver on the member-owners’ three highest priorities – affordability, reliability and environmental stewardship. The future portfolio will serve their member-owners for decades while significantly reducing wholesale power costs to its member-owners. Additionally, the cooperative’s power supply resources will be more than 95 percent carbon dioxide-free.
As part of this portfolio transformation, Great River Energy will retire its largest coal-fired baseload power plant, Coal Creek Station, in the second half of 2022 and add 1,100 MW of wind energy purchases by the end of 2023, taking advantage of cost-competitive renewable energy and reliable access to market energy. It will also modify its coal and natural gas-based Spiritwood Station power plant to be fueled by natural gas. Finally, it will install a 1 MW, long-duration battery demonstration project, fostering innovation as the technology of the industry evolves.
Great River Energy and its member-owner cooperatives are working hard to build awareness and encourage the use of electric vehicles. With growing momentum for the electrification of Minnesota’s economy, Great River Energy and its member cooperatives developed RevoltTM, a program that offers renewable energy credits for the expected life of an electric vehicle at no additional cost.
Great River Energy and its members have also made strides in establishing electric vehicle charging infrastructure, helping establish Minnesota’s first electric corridor. Charging infrastructure along Interstate 35 allows more electric vehicle owners to reach scenic northern Minnesota, a common road trip in the state. Together, the cooperatives participate in Drive Electric Minnesota, a coalition of groups that work collaboratively to bring electric vehicles and plug-in charging infrastructure to Minnesota.
Great River Energy, member-owner cooperative Dakota Electric Association and Schmitty & Sons partnered on a pilot program to bring a battery electric school bus into service in one Minnesota school district beginning in the 2017-18 school year. The pilot program was designed to study the economic and emissions benefits the bus provides, demonstrate battery electric technology in a cold-weather climate and exhibit its performance on suburban and rural routes.
The battery electric school bus, which returns to the same garage every day where it can charge overnight when the cost of electricity is low, showed lower O&M costs than a conventional diesel bus. It also reported one-sixth fewer emissions than a conventional diesel bus due to the interior space heater on the battery electric school bus. Finally, the driver, students and parents all reported positive experiences with the battery electric school bus.
In 2014 and 2015, Great River Energy launched a significant pilot project. Great River Energy monitors a 320-kilowatt solar installation at its headquarters and 20-kilowatt solar installations at 18 member cooperative sites to evaluate solar energy’s performance, maintenance requirements and impact on the grid. Additionally, several Great River Energy member cooperatives have installed community solar gardens for their member-consumers.
Great River Energy and its member cooperatives are well into updating critical systems and implementing new technologies for metering, telecommunications, demand response management and meter data management. The two-way flow of information and data enabled by these technologies can allow members to do things that are otherwise not possible, such as monitor their energy bill daily, or sell excess power into the electric system from solar panels on their home. Now that many of these critical systems have been updated, the cooperatives’ focus is turning to optimization and using data analytics to get the most value for members that these systems can provide. Learn more about the grid modernization initiative here.