Solar and Wind in Iowa: A Local Government Guide for Siting Utility-Scale Projects

March 9, 2020 in Communities, Electricity, Reports & Whitepapers Authors: Jenna Greene, Jessi Wyatt

The Great Plains Institute is engaging local governments across the Upper Midwest on long-term planning for renewable energy. As part of this effort, we developed a guide to provide communities in Iowa with an overview of long-term utility- and community-scale solar and wind development—systems sized one megawatt (MW) or greater.   Continue reading »

Electric Sector Emissions: How Geographic Choices Impact Modeling & Analysis

March 4, 2020 in Electricity Authors: Jessi Wyatt, Maggie Kristian

In our work on modeling and projections of electric sector greenhouse gas emissions, GPI often sees analysts using federally published electricity generation and emissions data defined by large geographic electricity regions rather than by an individual state or a specific electric utility. While using these large regions is convenient in terms of data availability, it can miss key differences in electric sector emissions that are available at more granular geographic regions. Continue reading »

Managed Electric Vehicle Charging Benefits Tested in Solar Synchronization Pilot

March 3, 2020 in Electricity, Transportation & Fuels Author: Maggie Kristian

An electric vehicle charger outside the Greenway building in Minneapolis, MNManaged electric vehicle charging can have benefits for two different groups—the demand side (the electric vehicle owner, the building owner, the power customer) and the supply side (the whole electric grid system). This blog looks at the benefits of managed electric vehicle charging and how it works in practice, using 2019 examples from the Greenway Building (GPI’s headquarters) where charging levels are synchronized with on-site solar production. Continue reading »

Stakeholders Provide Guidance as Xcel Energy Looks at 50 Percent Increase in Demand Response

February 6, 2020 in Electricity Author: Trevor Drake

Smart thermostat pictured for blog on Xcel Energy’s demand response programs

Xcel Energy explored increasing its demand response portfolio by 50 percent with Minnesota stakeholders from 2017-2019. The results highlight considerations for utilities looking to deploy larger portfolios of advanced demand response. This blog, the first in a three-part series, shares demand response design principles and filing objectives developed by stakeholders to inform Xcel Energy’s planning for new demand response programs. Continue reading »

Pilot Project Gets Solar Panels in Sync with Electric Vehicle Chargers

January 9, 2020 in Electricity, Transportation & Fuels Author: Maggie Kristian

What if we could harness the energy produced by the sun and maximize its potential to power electric vehicles (EVs) with zero-carbon electricity? That’s exactly what GPI has been working on in a pilot project that studies how managed EV charging can pull varying levels of power from the solar panels on our rooftop based on how much solar is being produced at a given time. This ability to use “solar synchronization” could have big implications for reducing carbon emissions in both the electricity and transportation sectors, and presents potential benefits for consumers and businesses alike. Continue reading »

Analysis: Rooftop Solar Can Provide Year-Round Electricity—Even in the Bold North

December 19, 2019 in Electricity, Transportation & Fuels Authors: Dane McFarlane, Elizabeth Abramson

Solar panels on the roof of a Minneapolis building in winter

When it comes to solar energy, a common question is how electricity generation will be affected by seasonal shifts or daily changes in the weather. These variations become especially important when households and businesses consider using rooftop solar panels to serve their electricity needs, such as for charging electric vehicles (EVs). By analyzing a full year of data collected from the solar array on the Great Plains Institute’s own rooftop, paired with the electric vehicle chargers at our building, we have gathered insights to answer to this question.  
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Approval of Xcel Energy’s Electric Vehicle Pilots Highlights Key Considerations for Electric Utilities

December 12, 2019 in Electricity, Transportation & Fuels Author: Trevor Drake

 An electric vehicle plug

Following a stakeholder engagement process facilitated by the Great Plains Institute in 2018, Xcel Energy received approval and is moving forward in Minnesota with new electric vehicle (EV) pilot programs.  

As investor-owned electric utilities seek to meet the needs of shareholders, consumers, and the environment, EVs offer a unique opportunity. If implemented carefully, utility investments in EV infrastructure and programs can provide a series of benefits, including new sources of utility revenue, better services for EV drivers, reduced costs for all consumers by making the electric system more efficient, and reduced pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading »

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 in a field, against a sunset

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 bulbs

On 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 »