- March 31 – REAP Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Loans & Grants
- April 14 – Proposals for Renewable Energy Certificates for the Presidio
- April 21 – USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program pre-proposals due
- April 27 – Nominate interconnection leaders for DGIC case study series
Willmar Municipal Utilities (WMU) in central Minnesota is building a power supply that parallels the state’s renewable portfolio standard of 25 percent renewables by 2025, even though the standard only applies to power generators.
The small (9,600 meters), independent distribution utility is acquiring renewables because consumers are concerned about the environment, said WMU General Manager John Harren. “It is becoming the expectation of our customers,” he stated in an interview with a local newspaper.
The renewable share of Willmar Municipal’s power supply is currently at 22 percent. The town’s own wind turbines generate 2 percent, WAPA hydropower represents 13 percent and a mix of contracts with multiple generators makes up the balance. Because the Minnesota RPS only allows hydropower from facilities under 100 megawatts (MW), the WAPA allocation would not count toward the 25-percent goal if WMU was subject to the law.
Started with wind
Willmar Municipal took its first steps toward expanding its renewable supply beyond hydropower in 2009 by building two wind turbines, each with a 2-MW capacity. The estimated payback on the $10-million project is 10 to 15 years.
Initially, the turbine manufacturer DeWind Company of Texas was responsible for service and repairs. However, Willmar Municipal took over operation in August of 2014, training seven of its own employees to climb the turbines and perform maintenance. Local control resulted in more timely service and increased generation in 2015.
Power Supply Manager Chris Carlson said, “We’re making a good faith objective to build up our renewable portfolio.”
The rest of the utility’s power comes from the traditional sources of gas, coal and nuclear. “Even if we had a full fleet of renewables, there will always be a need for some sort of fuel supply for backup sources,” Carlson observed, “for times when there’s no wind or sunshine.”
Proceeding with caution
Pursuing clean energy for its consumers, rather than mandates, gives Willmar Municipal the time to carefully consider the advantages and drawbacks of each opportunity. Contracts with power suppliers have been instrumental in adding renewables, primarily wind and renewable energy certificates. As WMU procures additional purchased power agreements, emphasis will be placed on renewables.
Solar generation is growing more slowly in the Upper Great Plains than in sunnier parts of WAPA’s territory, due to the region’s low utility rates and less robust resource. So far, there is only one customer-owned solar array on Willmar Municipal’s system. However, WMU will consider including a solar garden on a new municipal facility it hopes to build, Carlson noted. “Adding solar will increase our costs, so we want to make sure we have a handle on our power supply before we move forward,” she explained.
Carlson expects the percentage of renewables to continue to grow, even as the city’s load remains stable. “If gas prices go through the roof 10 years from now due to the retirement of fossil fuel plants, we could still hedge our costs with renewables that have zero fuel costs,” she pointed out. “That’s one of the reasons why we aim for a diversified portfolio,” Carlson added.
March 14, 10 a.m. MST
Western and the DOE Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) invite Federal agencies to participate in the 2012 renewable energy certificate (REC) soliciation. RECs can help Federal agencies meet their renewable energy goals and mandates, while improving the environment and supporting national energy security.
To participate in this solicitation, download and complete the Statement of Intent for Federal Agencies to Purchase Renewable Resources from Western’s Renewable Resources for Federal Agencies website. Fax or e-mail the completed form to Sandee Peebles at 916-985-1931 no later than April 20. Western will competitively procure the desired RECs with FEMP covering the administrative cost of the solicitation, a savings that will accrue to the participants.
Learn more about the key requirements and steps associated with this REC purchase by joining a 45-minute webinar March 14 at 10 a.m. MST. Register today for this free event.
Join Western and the DOE Tribal Energy Program for a FREE webinar, Aug. 17, on Challenges and Opportunities with Tribal Renewable Energy Development, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mountain Time.
Utilities in Western’s 15-state territory need renewable energy and renewable energy certificates to meet goals and mandates. Native American tribes have abundant renewable resources on tribal lands, and jobs and economic development would come from building generation projects. This webinar is for tribes who are interested in responding to renewable Requests for Proposals from utilities, or who simply want to learn more about the competitive power market.
There are many challenges that beset renewable project development—from transmission interconnection and availability to conditions that are unique to each tribe. Speakers from utilities, government agencies and developers will offer their perspectives on how tribes can navigate the obstacles to create winning partnerships that result in successful tribal renewable projects. Expect frank discussions on what utilities expect in a tribal proposal to a renewable RFP, along with examples of success. See the full agenda.
Western’s Upper Great Plains region (UGPR) is offering renewable energy certificates (RECs) on a first-come, first-served basis to Federal and non-Federal Western customers.
The RECs, from facilities in North and South Dakota, are an attribute-only product from a wind energy purchase Western completed to supplement reduced hydropower generation from the recent drought. UGPR currently has approximately 273,000 calendar-year-2010 RECs and anticipates an additional 600,000 RECs through calendar year 2012.
For more about Western’s RECs sale, please contact Mr. Pete Kinney at 605-882-7567 or Mr. Mark Messerli at 605-882-7564.