Minnesota utility in talks to build state’s biggest ESS

Published on: August 10, 2017 9:11 amBy: ESJ


Retail electric cooperative Connexus Energy is in talks with vendors to create Minnesota’s biggest storage plus solar project as the US state of drives toward its goal of cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

If the talks are successful the 20MW/40MWh project will see the energy storage system built next to three solar installations, with a combined output of 10MW, that Connexus proposes to build in the summer of 2018.

However, an announcement of the details, included the names of the vendors, of the project has yet to be released.

A Connexus spokesperson told Energy Storage Journal that the company was still in the selection process.

In a pre-prepared statement, Brian Burandt (pictured), vice president of power supply and business development at Connexus, said he believed the project would be the largest of its kind being contemplated in the state. He said. “There are larger projects in the US at this time but this is the largest we know about in Minnesota.”

Storage is seen as an affordable and proven method for managing the variable supply of renewable energy produced by solar panels onto the grid.

Speaking about the state’s de-carbonization goals, Ellen Anderson, executive director of the University of Minnesota, told Energy Storage Journal that the state had a goal of 80% reduction of carbon across the economy by 2050, which is parallel with other states’ goals, with some having more aggressive targets than that.

“The question is ‘how much and how quickly’ the transition will happen. What we are looking at is knowing coal use has already been cut in half, but then it’s a question of, ‘will that be replaced with a renewables infrastructure?’

“We are getting close to a tipping point where the de-carbonization [of the state’s energy mix] is not going to be stoppable. I think it’s not stoppable, but the big question is how fast and who will lead on this and who will lag behind?”

If developed the project could become a milestone in influencing how storage fits into Minnesota’s solar market.

Anderson said the was still a big question over what the state’s energy mix would, but renewable energy standards between organizations and solar energy standards showed that 28% renewables were required by 2025.

“If we don’t start with storage now, and instead look at new fossil fuels solutions and investments, we may not be able to meet the 2025 deadlines and we have to sound the alarm and raise people’s awareness in the Mid-West of that. The decision being made now will determine what that future grid will look like.”

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