All of Minnesota’s electricity generation needs can be met by wind and solar sources combined with improvements to the state’s electric grid system and energy efficiency policies, according to a report released. “Renewable Minnesota: A technical and economic analysis of a 100% renewable-energy based electricity system for Minnesota” was researched and written by Dr. Arjun Makhijani and Christina Mills of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) in Takoma Park, Maryland and Dr. M.V. Ramana of Princeton University.
Researchers reviewed the energy production demands and compared to production potential from Wind and Solar methods and found that Minnesota can meet 100% of its energy needs from renewables. In a study published March 2012 the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research based it model on Minnesota energy usage from 2007.
Major components of their analysis are the use of energy storage technology and smart grid technology. The storage technology that they assumed is compressed air energy storage (CAES), which has been used commercially for decades with coal-fired power plants in two locations: Germany and Alabama. Compressed natural gas storage in caverns and aquifers is also a standard technology. CAES is only one option for commercial scale storage technology, and because it has a proven track record, they used it as the placeholder technology for the storage capacity needed.
The major findings of this study concluded.
A renewable energy-based electricity sector is technically feasible, using available and proven technologies. If this is supplemented with an intelligent grid with two-way communication and more efficient use and integration of distributed generation and storage resources, this can help reduce the costs of implementing a renewable energy-based electricity sector.
There are ample renewable resources in Minnesota. There is more than enough wind and solar energy potential to meet the entire 2007 demand of Xcel Energy’s customers every hour and to accommodate growth in the foreseeable future. These technologies are already commercially available. While we have not examined the subject in detail here, there is evidence that the requisite amount of utility-scale storage technology can also be installed within the state.
An efficient, renewable electricity system can be achieved at an overall cost comparable to the present total cost. The added costs of renewable energy generation, as compared to the current generation from mature and fully-depreciated fossil fuel and nuclear generation facilities, can be offset by increasing the energy efficiency of household and building appliances. The net costs of electricity services – lighting, cooling, running appliances, etc., would be the same as today, but partitioned between generation, storage, efficiency, transmission and distribution.
Energy efficiency lowers the effective cost of electricity services and electricity bills.
The full study can be found at http://www.ieer.org/reports/renewableminnesota/