Great River Energy announces coal closure, wind, storage future


Minnesota cooperative Great River Energy will shutter its North Dakota coal-fired power plant several years early, replacing it’s coal plant with wind and storage.

The closure of Coal Creek Station, one of the Upper Midwest’s largest power plants, is expected in the second half of 2022. Great River intends to replace it with wind capacity generated by new wind farms, of which four will be based in its home state.

Whilst the utility has historically served thousands of customers in the state, it was able to produce power cheaply thanks to the close proximity to a local coal mine, but as coal has become less economically attractive when compared to wind or solar, the plant has been losing money.

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“The real driver for this decision is economics,” said David Saggau, CEO of Great River, a nonprofit wholesale cooperative owned by 28 retail electricity co-ops mostly based in Minnesota.

The company will also trial a 1MW/150MWh aqueous air battery system by Form Energy Inc, for long-term power storage.

This duration allows for a fundamentally new reliability function to be provided to the grid from storage, one historically only available from thermal generation resources like coal.

“In order to understand how best to make the energy transition, new analytical tools are needed, and Formware™ allowed us to work with GRE to systematically and thoroughly understand the value that our assets can bring to their system”, said Marco Ferrara, SVP Analytics and Business Development for Form Energy.

“Commercially viable long-duration storage could increase reliability by ensuring that the power generated by renewable energy is available at all hours to serve our membership. Long-duration storage also provides an excellent hedge against volatile energy prices,” said Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Power Supply Officer Jon Brekke.