Engaging Communities on Utility-Scale Wind & Solar Development in the Midwest: Part III, Local Readiness and Decision-Making

December 10, 2019 in Communities, Electricity Authors: Jenna Greene, Jessi Wyatt

 

Wind turbines and farmland

Community-scale readiness is critical to the successful development of the Midwest’s abundant solar and wind energy resources. As utility-scale wind and solar development increases in the Midwest, communities should consider how renewable energy development aligns with local goals and values. A series of proactive actions can ensure that the way utility-scale renewables develop in a community is in line with community vision, reduces potential conflict, and optimizes co-benefits. Continue reading »

GPI Goes to the Movies: The Current War

November 26, 2019 in Electricity Authors: Katelyn Bocklund, Maggie Kristian

Three hanging light bulbsOn occasion, Great Plains Institute (GPI) staff like to venture into the world of pop culture, especially when that pop culture has to do with our favorite topic—energy. Some GPI staff attended the recent film The Current War, which dives into the origins of our modern electric grid system and the inventors, investors, and engineers that made it happen. Two of our staff members shared some thoughts about that battle over who would create the modern electric grid and the critical work ahead to transform the grid for a low-carbon future.

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Solar Energy & Natural Systems: Exploring Co-Benefit Opportunities

November 21, 2019 in Communities, Electricity Authors: Brian Ross, Katharine Chute

A pollinator test plot underneath the PV array at the Chisago Solar Site, part of the Aurora Solar Project in Minnesota. NREL scientist Jordan Macknick is researching the economical and ecological affect of pollinator plants planted underneath the PV array

Solar projects can be designed and sited to meet natural resource conservation goals. Capturing the natural resource co-benefit opportunities of solar development will involve creative partnerships, targeted spatial planning, and rethinking site and project design. Continue reading »

Engaging Communities on Utility-Scale Wind & Solar Development in the Midwest: Part II, Local Considerations

October 7, 2019 in Communities, Electricity Authors: Jenna Greene, Jessi Wyatt

The lowering cost of wind and solar energy generation has a local impact: communities are going to see more wind and solar development projects, more often. Communities see many of the direct impacts from these developments, from tax revenues to opportunities for co-beneficial land uses to managing resident feedback on such development. Many local considerations and indicators can help communities understand opportunities for maximizing local co-benefits as the market continues to increase for utility-scale solar and wind development. Continue reading »

Approval of a Wisconsin Transmission Project Marks a Major Milestone for Clean Energy in the Midwest

September 11, 2019 in Electricity Authors: Matt Prorok, Rolf Nordstrom

In 2007, a bipartisan group of seven governors announced ground-breaking energy and climate agreements that would go on to shape the region’s energy system. Over a decade later, Wisconsin regulators recently approved the capstone transmission project, the last in a set of 17 “multi-value transmission projects” (MVPs) across the region representing $6.5 billion in investment that grew out of those original agreementsThe MVP portfolio’s 17 projects will enable over 16 GW of wind generation to come online, delivering 52 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy throughout the MISO footprint through 2031. Put another way, without these lines, over 60 percent of the renewable energy needed to meet the region’s renewables goals through 2031 would have been curtailed.  Continue reading »

e21 Forum Highlights Four Areas of Energy Innovation Across Minnesota

September 10, 2019 in Electricity Author: Trevor Drake

Minnesota energy stakeholders came together at the end of August to learn about four areas of innovation happening across the state’s energy system. The event was put on by the e21 Initiative, a collaborative effort between the Great Plains Institute and Center for Energy and Environment that convenes diverse stakeholder groups to help shape and advance a decarbonized, customer-centric, and technologically modern energy system in Minnesota.

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Engaging Communities on Utility-Scale Wind & Solar Development in the Midwest: Part I, Market Drivers

September 9, 2019 in Communities, Electricity Authors: Jenna Greene, Jessi Wyatt

In the Midwest, powerful market drivers are creating an attractive environment for investors and developers to build more renewable energy projects and infrastructure. Declining technology costs for utility-scale wind and solar are combined in the region with an abundance of wind and solar resources. As utility-scale renewable energy projects increase across the region, it is important for communities to have an understanding of these market drivers and to prepare for project development and siting. Continue reading »

Electric Vehicle Charging Station Economics: GPI’s DC Fast Charging Calculator

August 15, 2019 in Electricity, Transportation & Fuels Author: Dane McFarlane

Person using a calculatorAs part of our research on the economics of DC fast charging, the Great Plains Institute created a model to calculate the costs and revenue of operating an electric vehicle (EV) charging station. Through our work with the EV industry, we’ve often heard charging operators, community leaders, and EV owners express a desire to explore how station operation impacts costs for both EV charger owners and users. Continue reading »

Analysis: How Demand Charges Impact Electric Vehicle Fast Charging Infrastructure

July 31, 2019 in Electricity, Reports & Whitepapers, Transportation & Fuels Authors: Dane McFarlane, Matt Prorok

GPI recently released a white paper analyzing the economics of direct current fast charging (DCFC) as part of our work with the Midcontinent Transportation Electrification Collaborative (MTEC). DCFC stations are critical for widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) because they provide access to much faster battery charging in public places and along major driving routes and highways. The white paper focused on a specific barrier to increased DCFC stations in the region: electric utility demand charges.  Continue reading »

Solar Energy & Agriculture: Pursuing Win-Win Opportunities

July 9, 2019 in Communities, Electricity Author: Brian Ross

NREL solar panels with pollinator friendly plants

The largest solar farm proposal in the Midwest recently received approval from Wisconsin state regulators. Most of the 3,500-acre Badger Hollow Solar Farm project, which is being developed by Illinois-based Invenergy, is located on active farmland and will include up to 1.2 million solar panels on 2,200 acres of the project area. Some in the community saw the project as a staggering land use change in their community and contrary to the county’s farmland preservation plan. Significant local opposition to the project decried the use of prime agricultural land for solar production.

This case is emblematic of the dilemmas faced by the solar industry, utilities, and those working at the local, state, and federal levels to decarbonize the power sector and increase the use of local renewable energy. The Great Plains Institute is working to address these issues in ways that support solar development and agricultural protection goals. Continue reading »