University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
Energy Transition Lab

What’s Minnesota’s future of carbon-free, nuclear power?

August 15, 2019Aaron HansonNews0

Is nuclear power the answer to a carbon-free energy production in Minnesota?  Although nuclear power is an efficient energy source, many experts still debate because of the effects of nuclear waste.  Executive Director of the Energy Transition Lab, Ellen Anderson says, “It’s really hard to find that bipartisan solution.”

Xcel Energy plans to construct a new natural gas power plant in Becker for times when solar and wind energy decline, but experts are questioning their decision.  Ellen believes that, “when you build a new plant you are locking in fossil fuel emissions for decades to come.” As of now, lots of experts are still unsure about the future of nuclear power. 

Read this online article to learn more about the future of nuclear power in Minnesota.


Minnesota utilities weigh energy storage as substitute for peaker plants

August 14, 2019Aaron HansonNews0

As of 2019, there is a new Minnesota state law that demands utilities to reconsider and implement energy storage into their long-term energy usage plans.  As energy storage becomes cost competitive, the demand of peaker plants will decrease.  This gives way for electricity production to become carbon free by 2050 as desired by Xcel Energy.

On hot summer days when utilities face high demands, peaker plants may fail.  Ellen Anderson, executive director of the Energy Transition Lab, says “Utilities will have to acknowledge the capabilities storage can provide as an alternative to, say, a fossil fuel plant.”

To learn more about the future of Minnesota’s energy system, read this online article.

Counterpoint: Don’t Confuse or Reject the Role of Renewables

February 8, 2019Andrew ButtsNewsComments Off on Counterpoint: Don’t Confuse or Reject the Role of Renewables

Isaac Orr, a member of the Center of the American Experiment, used the polar vortex last week to advocate against the use of renewables. By using a confusing mixture of statistics, he attempts to evaluate energy usage and argues the necessity for a return of coal as an energy source. Anderson, of the Energy Transition Lab (ETL); Jessica Hellmann, of the Institute on the Environment (IonE); and Sabine Engel, director of International Partnerships, come together in this article to clarify some of Orr’s misunderstood statistics and approaches to energy in regarding the validity of a future with renewable energies. To hear the counter analysis against Orr’s take and some other realities regarding renewable energy integration in Minnesota from lead members in the ETL and IonE click here.

To wit: A solar array connected to a battery recently installed by Connexus Energy generated 147 percent more power than average on Jan. 30, when it was colder than 20 below at noon. In fact, Connexus’ solar and battery storage system performed so well… it provided power to reduce peak demand and helped reduce strain on the electric grid.

Subsidized Energy Efficiency Could Curb Renter Costs

January 31, 2019Andrew ButtsNewsComments Off on Subsidized Energy Efficiency Could Curb Renter Costs

Energy efficient developments could be crucial in reducing carbon emission rates as stated by the Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson. The City of Minneapolis has also recognized the importance of energy efficiency and has been working on developing more affordable ways to reach this goal. One initiative of this work is the research being done by ETL to find a financial model that helps reduce energy-efficient installation costs for the consumer. To read more about this inclusive energy financing project and the importance of energy efficiency for all Minnesotan citizens click here.

[Students] need to know that the fastest, cheapest and cleanest way to reduce carbon emissions is with energy efficiency,” said Ellen Anderson, director of the University Energy Transition Lab. “It’s not the shiny object that renewable energy is, but it needs to be the beginning of any kind of energy solution.

Line 3 fight brings PUC higher profile, lots of applicants

January 14, 2019Andrew ButtsNews1

Thanks to the heated Line 3 project in Northern Minnesota, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) was brought into center focus this last year. This project has awakened the public’s mind to Minnesota’s energy transition to a more decentralized, carbon-free, and renewable future. This transition will be largely shaped by what happens behind closed doors at the Public Utilities Commission. To ensure the best possible transition for the future of the state, many have applied for the upcoming commissioner opening. The Energy Transition Lab’s own Ellen Anderson, who was once a commissioner on the Public Utilities Commission panel, touches on the nature of Minnesota’s PUC and the necessity for a future of greater balance regarding clean energy and fair economics. To read more about the Public Utilities Commission, the details behind the opening position, and those contending for the newly highlighted position click here.

For a long time, that regulatory work was fairly predictable. Utilities had a few really big, mostly coal-fired power plants, and long transmission lines to carry electricity to customers. State regulators, for the most part, focused on keeping electricity reliable and cheap, said Ellen Anderson.

“Basically that was the bottom line,” she said. “What’s the lowest cost option?”

Now, that energy system is being flipped on its head. Electricity is being produced all around the state, in wind farms, community solar gardens, and on homeowners’ rooftops, and in the future, will be increasingly used to power our vehicles.

Weekend Watch: Climate Smart – Cities Working Together

December 14, 2018Andrew ButtsNewsComments Off on Weekend Watch: Climate Smart – Cities Working Together

Minnesota has recently undertaken a global initiative by partnering with Germany, a global role model in energy initiatives. By partnering five cities in Minnesota to five cities in Germany, the initiative hopes to foster mutual innovation around shared environmental goals and a commitment to inclusion and equity. In an regional emmy-winning short film, Sabine Engels, of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, explains that “change is difficult” but reminds the viewers that change is possible if we “live together, work collaboratively, and do so in a way that is beneficial to all of us and the environment as well.” To watch more on Minnesota’s partnership with Germany click here. (26 min)

Future arrives in Minnesota as electric cooperative unveils battery project

December 11, 2018Andrew ButtsNewsComments Off on Future arrives in Minnesota as electric cooperative unveils battery project

A local Minnesota initiative led by Connexus, an electric cooperative, could make Minnesota a trailblazer in the nation’s current renewable energy transition. Oct. 26, 2018 marked the unveiling of the Connexus initiative in Minnesota to create the state’s first large-scale solar-plus battery storage project. This project, unlike anything produced in the country yet, will set the tone for what energy storage is capable of. A key current project of ETL, investigating the costs and benefits of co-locating solar generation with pollinator habitat, was made possible through a generous grant by Connexus. To read more about the history leading to this solar-plus-storage project and the Connexus initiative click here.

“It’s no doubt that storage is a disruptor,” Ridderbusch said. Some see giant battery systems that store renewable electricity akin to cell phones or digital cameras — they change the world. And they could definitely change the way electric cooperatives work, said Duane Ninneman, executive director of Clean Up the River Environment. “They could leapfrog from an innovation point of view and actually put those member-owners to work in being generators themselves.”

UMN adds new solar panels as part of renewable energy plan

December 7, 2018Andrew ButtsNewsComments Off on UMN adds new solar panels as part of renewable energy plan

Ellen Andersen, executive director of the Energy Transition Lab, has recently collaborated with departments and students at the University of Minnesota to evaluate an onsite solar panel project. As part of the University’s initiative to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050, this project intends to add solar arrays to nine different sites across the east bank, west bank, and St. Paul campuses. To read more about those involved, the work behind the panels, and the benefits of the onsite solar panels click here.

Ellen Anderson, executive director of the Energy Transition Lab, led the SUN Delegation Team. “We got the students together and we formed strategies … to do solar site assessments.” Anderson is confident the University will continue to bolster sustainable energy practices. “Every year it gets more cost effective,” she said. 

New Report Shows Minnesota Can Reliably Power Economy on Clean Energy

December 4, 2018Andrew ButtsNewsComments Off on New Report Shows Minnesota Can Reliably Power Economy on Clean Energy

The McKnight Foundation, a family-based organization, has been providing grants to initiatives in Minnesota to improve the overall quality of life through everything from the arts to clean energy. The Energy Transition Lab has been fortunate to count itself among those. A new report from Vibrant Clean Energy, commissioned by the McKnight Foundation, reveals that Minnesota can simultaneously reach its greenhouse gas emission reduction rate of 80% by 2050, triple energy jobs, and decrease average household bills. These benefits are just a start, to read more about how McKnight’s energy efforts could inspire a statewide transition to a cleaner and healthier tomorrow click here.

“It is heartening to see this report that presents various scenarios under which the Minnesota economy can be heavily decarbonized, leading to lower cost of electricity to consumers, cleaner air and creation of new jobs,” said Ned Mohan, Oscar A. Schott Professor of Power Electronics and Systems in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Minnesota.

Renewable energy in Minnesota receives a battery boost with Connexus project

November 28, 2018Andrew ButtsNewsComments Off on Renewable energy in Minnesota receives a battery boost with Connexus project

As the price of batteries are dropping, renewable initiatives nationwide are starting to take form. States like Arizona, Colorado, and California are working on battery storage and frequency regulation to improve the efficiency of renewable methods. Over the next few years, Minnesota will be making large movements towards renewable energy as well. Connexus, a Minnesota based energy cooperative, has just developed the largest commercial-battery deployment in the nation. Energy Transition Lab’s own Ellen Anderson was quoted in this article talking about the importance of the energy transition and the possibilities held in battery storage as well. To hear more about Minnesota’s energy initiative amid the nationwide transition click here.

The sun shines only during the day, and clouds can obscure it when it does. Prime time for wind gusts is often at night, when power demand is low. With a battery, renewable energy can be captured and pushed onto the grid when it’s most needed. “The holy grail for renewable energy is to have storage you can dispatch at any time,” said Ellen Anderson, executive director of the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transmission Lab.
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