Will Kaul of Great River Energy says the G&T is already working with its members to deploy elements of a flexible and agile modern grid. (Photo By: GRE)
"This seemed like the future three years ago when we first started this initiative," said Will Kaul, vice president and chief transmission officer of Great River Energy. "But the landscape is changing rapidly and we are now in the thick of it. Grid modernization better describes what we are doing."
The Maple Grove, Minnesota-based G&T is rapidly replacing and upgrading obsolete and aging infrastructure with new systems that will significantly add to its capabilities to support members as they deal with rapid changes in the market and ever-increasing customer expectations, said Kaul.
"This year, Great River Energy will begin separating its energy management system from its distribution management system to give our member co-ops more options to enhance automation of their systems," said Dick Pursley, manager of system operations for the G&T.
According to Pursley, that work will give distribution co-ops more control and flexibility to offer additional services to their members.
Great River Energy recently hosted a conference for co-op leaders in which a panel led by Tom Guttormson, principal technology engineer of Ramsey, Minnesota-based Connexus Energy, examined how co-ops can manage distributed energy resources. The topic's importance has grown as more wind and solar, including member-owned and third-party systems, are connected to the grid.
Panelists from industry associations, the Tennessee Valley Authority, academic engineering programs and utility providers, including co-ops, also discussed the impact of electric vehicles, the potential of microgrids, net metering and rate design and time of use on grid operations.
They touched on many of the goals in Great River Energy's Future Grid Initiative since the G&T formed a working committee to focus on the issue in 2014, said Alan Shedd, director of energy solutions at Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives.
"We have to foster awareness, understanding, and engagement of both the internal co-op and external member-consumer audience," said Shedd. "We must keep up-to-date in these fast-changing areas, position ourselves to manage change, and be the trusted source for information and solutions."