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Membership Matters by CEO Brian Zelenak: January 2020

Nemadji Trail Energy Center needed to support renewable energy sources

By Brian R. Zelenak

SCEC President/CEO

To meet the region’s growing electricity needs and demand for clean energy, Dairyland Power Cooperative, the wholesale power supply cooperative that provides the power we sell to YOU (our members), and Minnesota Power are working together to  on a 625-megawatt natural gas power plant known as the Nemadji Trail Energy Center. The facility is a necessary component to support the increased renewable energy sources the region increasingly relies upon. The plant will be located in Superior, Wis., between Enbridge Energy's Superior Terminal and the Nemadji River. It will provide electricity when the wind isn’t blowing or sun isn’t shining enough to produce the power our members need.

In October, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved plans for the natural gas plant. However, environmental groups appealed the decision, citing cost and climate pollution.

Last month, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the MPUC's earlier ruling, saying the agency must conduct an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW).

We are disappointed with this reversal, since a rigorous and thorough review by Wisconsin regulators is currently underway that will adequately address environmental concerns and the steps being taken to mitigate any environmental impacts.

This natural gas facility is integral to providing a sustainable generation portfolio - economically and systematically diversifying energy resources and reducing carbon intensity. It will serve as the “power behind the power” supporting renewable energy investments. It provides us with reliable and competitively priced power when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

Dairyland Power Cooperative is a member of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), the transmission service provider for its members’ transmission systems – essentially the market from which you receive your energy. As you can see from the graph below, during last winter’s Polar Vortex it would have been impossible to meet the energy demand during January 2019 without non-renewable generation. Without supporting fossil fuel power plants, reliability, safety and human lives would have been significantly impacted. Dairyland – through the MISO market – generates electricity by using both traditional and renewable energy resources to maintain a reliable supply of energy to members. Their energy portfolio is progressive and varied, utilizing domestic coal, natural gas, hydro, landfill gas-to-energy, wind and solar to create the electricity we all rely upon. A varied portfolio is not just desired, it is absolutely necessary.   

Until next month,

Until next month,

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