How to integrate renewable energies into the network? Northfield has an idea – Session Daily

Could Northfield go it alone? Could a small town in southern Minnesota have its own electrical distribution grid, using solar power and taking care of its own storage needs?

This would be the goal of HF3222.

Sponsored by Rep. Todd Lippert (DFL-Northfield), it would allocate $4.5 million from the Renewable Energy Development Account to a grant to the city to create a pilot project that would develop and deploy a distributed energy resource management system for the Northfield power grid.

The desired outcome would be efficient interconnection and controllable operation of solar power, storage, electric vehicle charging, demand response, and other distributed energy resources.

On Tuesday, the House Finance and Climate and Energy Policy Committee tabled the bill for possible inclusion of the omnibus bill. He has no companion in the Senate.

It became clear during Tuesday’s hearing that the bill is partly designed to address a particular problem: the difficulty of connecting renewable energy systems to the power grid, a topic discussed at a committee meeting February 10.

Much of Tuesday’s testimony came from solar developers and homeowners who have installed solar panels on their homes — including Rep. Patty Acomb (DFL-Minnetonka) — and faced roadblocks from utilities for them. enable, especially Xcel Energy.

Rick Evans, Director of Regional Government Affairs for Xcel Energy, responded to some of the complaints voiced by witnesses about unexpected cost increases, requirements and delays when trying to access the Xcel power grid.

“What we went through, I think, could be described as a culture shock,” Evans said. “As a utility, we own and operate a distribution network. The purpose of this network is to provide reliable electricity at the lowest possible cost to all of our customers. The network was not built to allow private for-profit companies to interconnect and sell their products on the network. They are, however, authorized to do so, serving a small subset of our customers.

So would the Northfield pilot circumvent the difficulties faced by solar projects struggling to connect to the grid? That remains to be seen.

“It could provide a model for other communities in the state,” Lippert said. “We need to move from a dumb grid to a smart grid. We need one where power comes from distributed sources.

(Map via OpenStreetMap)

The Northfield project is designed for this. Rather than the traditional one-way power distribution model – a substation tapping into the transmission grid and sending power to residential, commercial and industrial customers – this would create a system in which solar generating systems and wind and energy storage could be operated more closely to these customers.

“It’s like a demand response system for the whole grid,” said Nokomis Energy partner Brendan Dillon, who is Northfield’s chief adviser on the project.

Evans expressed dismay that Xcel Energy was not consulted on the project, saying Xcel’s transmission grid would be a source for much of its electricity.

Rep. Robert Bierman (DFL-Apple Valley) asked if there are such systems currently in use in Minnesota.

“As part of what we’re offering, there isn’t,” Dillon said. “But the same concept has been done by Xcel in some places. It wouldn’t be a completely new deployment.

The $4.5 million in funding for the bill would come from the Renewable Energy Development Account, a state-administered fund designed expressly for the purpose of developing renewable energy sources in Minnesota. Xcel Energy pays it an annual fee of between $350,000 and $500,000 for each drum of nuclear waste it stores at its Prairie Island and Monticello facilities.


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