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CEO’s Message – August 2020

Pandemic Updates and Battery Storage

Stearns Electric Association has been operating in a medium pandemic response since mid-March. We are entering our sixth month of operation in this pandemic. Most emergencies we respond to, like summer storms and ice storms, are much shorter in duration than our current pandemic.

These are unique times that have required a unique response from employees, management and the Board of Directors at Stearns Electric. There have been many “firsts” for the Cooperative during this pandemic. We had our first-ever virtual Annual Meeting business update. We conducted a drive-through cheese and butter event for members. And, our annual Member Appreciation Pancake Feed is now a Donut Dash drive-through.

A number of Stearns Electric employees continue to work remotely, outside of our office facilities. We have worked hard to limit potential employee exposure to COVID-19 by minimizing the number of persons in one fleet vehicle, staggering employee start and end times, and encouraging employees to work remotely when possible.

Now that August is upon us and as Minnesota continues to open up for business, here is an update on the Stearns Electric pandemic response:

  • Visitors will be able to come into our offices by appointment only beginning August 17. Please see more information on page 5.
  • A number of Stearns Electric office employees continue to work remotely.
  • All individuals inside of the Stearns Electric facilities are required to wear face coverings. This includes employees who are not seated in their designated work space.
  • The Cooperative has installed plexiglass in areas, such as our front desk, to prepare employees for a safer work environment before our facilities open up to the public for appointments.
  • Most Stearns Electric meetings are conducted via web-based technologies. Limited in-person meetings are allowed with social distancing and sanitizing precautions.
  • The Cooperative has started in-person Board meetings using recommended social distancing, along with face coverings, during these meetings.
  • Stearns Electric employees continue to practice social distancing, rigorous hand washing, and work area disinfecting.

Stearns Electric is part of the nation’s critical infrastructure and adheres to strict operating guidelines during emergencies. It is our responsibility to continue to provide our members with reliable, safe electricity during this pandemic.

BATTERY STORAGE PROJECT

In May, I reported to you about the power supply changes with our power supplier, Great River Energy (GRE). GRE is transitioning to more renewable energy generation and Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) market power purchases. GRE is also collaborating to develop low-cost, utility scale, long-duration battery storage. This 1-megawatt storage project, the Cambridge Energy Storage Project, will be located in Cambridge, Minnesota.

This battery will be capable of delivering power continuously for 150 hours, or six days. This long discharge cycle will provide adequate energy for a multi-day grid disruption, such as the polar vortex we experienced in 2019.

GRE has partnered with Form Energy of Somerville, Massachusetts for this project. Form Energy was founded in 2017 by industry veterans from Tesla, Aquion, and A123 Systems. This project utilizes Form Energy’s proprietary aqueous air battery technology that is safe, inexpensive to build and operate, and utilizes abundant, local materials for battery construction. The energy storage project is expected to be operational by 2023.

The Cambridge Energy Storage Project is an important part of GRE’s, and Stearns Electric’s, commitment to affordable, renewable energy while continuing to provide you with a reliable supply of electricity.

Sincerely,

Robin C. Doege
CEO

 

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