MN project takes on energy reliability, affordability balancing act
Monday, November 13, 2023
In what's described as the first such project in the upper Midwest, a Minnesota utility is retooling one of its power distribution systems to make room for battery storage. Officials say it helps ensure service reliability while providing economic benefits.
Connexus Energy recently broke ground on the project at its substation in the Twin Cities suburb of Vadnais Heights. It says the battery storage system being installed there will help during peak demands for electricity.
The company's Community and Economic Development Representative Christine Costello said going this route means they won't have to take on a larger expansion effort to keep supplying electricity to homes and businesses in this area.
"Communities, as they develop and grow, they want to see businesses and land use development," said Costello, "and it's the way for us to add that additional energy and storage at our substations rather than acquiring additional land."
That land could either be conserved or left open for other types of development. Connexus says they also won't have to incur major project costs, which helps on the affordability side for customers.
The effort is supported through federal incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act.
The law is ushering in a range of clean energy projects, but Congressional Republicans want to roll back the funding.
Officials say projects like these make municipalities more attractive to businesses that prioritize sustainability. Vadnais Heights Mayor Mike Krachmer said that helps his city get its foot in the door.
"We haven't made huge investments in local renewable energy," said Krachmer, "but we have hopes to expand our initiatives and really support all of the organizations who want to increase our sustainability."
Connexus says the battery storage system is scheduled to go into service next summer.
While Minnesota appears to be the first among neighboring states to install this type of equipment at a power substation, there is a similar project in Indiana.
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