Project Development, Wind Power

Utility Will Expand Wind Program Before Deregulation

An electric utility co-op in Minnesota will triple the size of its wind energy program this year to meet consumer demand.

ELK RIVER, Minnesota – Great River Energy will plan its addition of new electric generation resources on a market basis, and will not wait for full deregulation to ensure an adequate and reliable supply of electricity for its current and future customers. The utility revealed its plans in its 2001 Resource Plan filed with the state Public Utilities Commission. The plan analyzes the future electricity needs of GRE’s 520,000 retail accounts in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and outlines what resources are currently available and how the company will consider new resources for the future. “Great River Energy supports the recent recommendation to improve state energy planning and streamlining siting and permitting processes in Minnesota to allow for more timely construction of new facilities,” explains vice president Rick Lancaster. “However, we feel full deregulation of the electric industry is not necessary in order to provide an adequate, reliable and cost efficient supply of electricity for Minnesotans. We’re an electric cooperative, owned by the customers we serve-they are now and always will be our first consideration.” The plan identifies the need to add 1,300 MW of capacity to satisfy an increase of energy usage at an average annual rate of 2.9 percent. By 2010, 500 MW of new resources are needed from gas-fired peaking and coal-fired baseload resources, in addition to 1,000 MW of gas-fired capacity it is currently building in southern Minnesota. GRE says it will continue its programs of demand side management and conservation by obtaining an additional 224 MW reduction in summer peak demand, evaluating the impact of energy efficiency programs to conserve energy and reduce load, and evaluating the feasibility of distributed generation from fuel cells and microturbines. It will also expanding its portfolio of renewable resources to meet retail customers’ demand for those resources. It plans to triple the size of its popular Wellspring Wind Energy Program this year. GRE is a generation and transmission cooperative providing wholesale energy services to 29 distribution cooperatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin, which serve 1.2 million people. It is the second largest utility in Minnesota in terms of generating capacity, and the fifth largest utility of its type in the U.S.