Power with a Purpose

February 6, 2023

The electricity that serves your home is the same as ever, but the way it is made has changed significantly in recent years.

The electric system was defined for decades by large power plants capable of supplying energy to thousands of households. Recent history has seen a remarkable rise in renewable resources, which generate emissions-free electricity across wide swaths of the landscape according to weather patterns.

“Renewable energy has quickly become one of the dominant energy sources in our region, particularly in the Upper Midwest,” said Great River Energy Resource Planning Director Zac Ruzycki. “We design our resource portfolio to take advantage of cost-effective, clean and abundant energy, while keeping power plants and other resources at the ready when the electric system needs additional energy.”

Great River Energy maintains a diverse portfolio of power supply resources, each essential to serving members reliably. This includes power plants the cooperative owns and operates as well as agreements with other power providers.

“Our fleet of modern and flexible natural gas ‘peaking plants’ is essential to reliable electric service,” Ruzycki said. “The majority of those resources can also operate with fuel oil when natural gas supply is constrained.”

As renewable energy growth has increased at a significant rate in the Upper Midwest, Great River Energy has added several wind resources in recent years. The cooperative also sold its long-running flagship coal-based power plant in North Dakota, which served Minnesota through a high-voltage, direct-current (HVDC) transmission system.

Great River Energy will continue to receive energy and capacity from the plant through an agreement with the buyer, and has signed a contract for what will be the largest wind farm in its power supply portfolio which will use the HVDC system to deliver renewable energy.

As the transition to renewable energy continues, the advancement of energy storage technology will grow in importance.

Great River Energy is performing a large-scale test of new energy storage technology with the Cambridge Energy Storage Project, which is currently under development by Form Energy and scheduled to begin operation in late 2024. This multi-day storage resource has the potential to turn variable sources of renewable energy into dependable, dispatchable energy resources.

By employing Form Energy’s iron-air battery technology, the resource will be able to store renewable energy and dispatch over several days. This is long enough to outlast periods of extreme weather that can pose challenges to the electric grid.

Great River Energy also works with its member-owner cooperatives to develop local renewable resources as well as deploy energy efficiency and demand response programs that make electricity more sustainable, affordable and reliable.