March 7, 2019 Read More →

Hybrid wind-solar project in Minnesota may be perfect option for co-ops, municipalities

Energy News Network:

A trailblazing wind-solar hybrid project in western Minnesota could be a preview of what’s to come as renewable developers look for new ways to bolster projects.

The project, developed and owned by Juhl Energy, is among the first of its kind in the country to pair wind and solar on the same site. A 2-megawatt turbine and 500-kilowatt solar installation share an inverter and grid connection, reducing equipment costs compared to two separate projects.

The pairing is expected to start producing power this month. Lake Region Electric Cooperative in Pelican Rapids, about 30 miles north of Fergus Falls, will buy the power for its approximately 27,000 members.

Juhl managing director Clay D. Norrbom said the plug-and-play nature of the system has attracted at least five other customers, including an industrial company in Iowa. Other customer prospects include cooperatives and municipally owned power providers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. He predicts Juhl will build at least three this year.

“It opens another market that quite frankly five, 10 or 15 years ago was not there,” Norrbom said. “You couldn’t supply to a municipal co-op. The scale and efficiency weren’t good enough to do that. Now you can go and supply at that distribution voltage something that’s price competitive to the end customers.”

The hybrid offers an opportunity to increase capacity. Wind turbines operate at a 50 to 55 percent capacity, Norrbom said, while solar in the Midwest sits at 15 percent. By combining power from both sources, the hybrid reaches a capacity factor of 65 to 70 percent, Norrbom said, at a cost substantially less than what Lake Region pays for electricity from its transmission and generation provider Great River Energy. Juhl decided against adding storage due to cost and regulatory issues, both challenges he predicts will dissipate in the future.

More: Wind-solar pairing cuts equipment costs while ramping up output

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