Lake Region Electric Cooperative (LREC) now includes beneficial electrification as a key facet of its strategic plan.

In 2019, Minnesota set a goal to have 100% of its electricity come from carbon-free sources by 2050. That’s on top of the state’s energy efficiency goals set through its conservation improvement program.

“If we reduce the carbon dioxide in our power supply, that opens up opportunities for us,” LREC CEO Tim Thompson says.

The Pelican Rapids-based co-op is piloting control technology on 40 large residential electric water heaters to allow them to be charged with off-peak wind power.

“Wind is variable. There are times where we can’t consume it all. Instead of that excess energy being lost, we can capture it and ‘store’ it in the water heaters,” Thompson says. “Any way we can help members save money and do it in a way that helps the environment, that is beneficial electrification, and that’s a win-win.”

LREC is working with NRECA, the newly formed Beneficial Electrification League, and Steffes Corporation, which developed the controller for the water heaters. Real-time data will ensure that power from the co-op’s 2.3-MW GE wind turbine is serving the program’s 80- and 100-gallon water heaters.

The co-op expects to see reduced peak costs from its power supplier, Great River Energy, and its local transmission providers.

And members won’t need to change a thing.

“When they wake up, their water heaters will be fully charged to 150 degrees,” says Dan Husted, LREC vice president of business development. “We don’t want members to adjust their lifestyle or even notice the water heater management.”