Minnesota co-op plans state’s biggest energy storage project
Minnesota’s largest retail electric cooperative is in negotiation with vendors to build the largest storage energy project in the state alongside three solar installations.
Connexus Energy plans to install storage capable of storing 20 megawatts, the equivalent of 40 MW hours of energy, according to Brian Burandt, vice president of power supply and business development.
“I believe it’s the largest project being contemplated at this time,” he said. “There are larger projects in the country at this time but this is the largest we know about in Minnesota.”
The storage would be sited at three proposed solar installations that Connexus plans to build likely next summer. The collective output of the solar project would be 10 MW.
The battery storage installations would be co-located at the solar sites, Burandt said. The co-op is “still in negotiation” about the solar projects.
Connexus, the largest customer-owned utility in Minnesota, serves 130,000 homes in the suburbs of the Twin Cities.
Ellen Anderson, executive director of the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab, applauded Connexus for embarking on the project.
Her lab recently issued a report on energy storage and is among the sponsors of a conference on the same topic in September. It also convenes the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance.
“It’s really is going to be an extremely influential example” in Minnesota and the Midwest in showcasing how “energy storage is an opportunity right now for utilities looking to combine customer benefits and cost savings and renewable energy goals.”
The project may resonate beyond the region because a cooperative is embarking upon the energy storage-solar concept, Anderson said.
“Co-ops see an opportunity they may have not considered before,” she said. It’s safe to say Connexus sees this as a first step to storage improving their system and helping customers. They’re being real innovators here.”
Another energy storage installation in operation in Indianapolis is as large as the Connexus, she said, but it does not include solar.
In fact, that’s what makes the project unique, she said, and the results may influence how storage might fit into Minnesota’s booming community solar garden market.
Connexus is a member of Great River Energy (GRE), a wholesale electric service provider serving 28 cooperatives.
Nathan Domyahn, GRE’s director of Minnesota generation, said other co-ops have become interested in storage as prices have dropped and the technology has improved.