What is Dispersed Generation & How Might it Work in My Region of MN?


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On Monday, June 16, 2008 from 1-3pm The Minnesota Department of Commerce gave a web seminar on the Phase 1 results of their Minnesota Dispersed Renewable Generation (DRG) Study. The purpose of the webinar was to inform the public of the first phase results, key findings, and conclusions. The study team gave a PowerPoint presentation summarizing the DRG Phase I report to the MN Public Utilities Commission.

This blog post should allow you to:
1. Understand Dispersed Generation
2. Watch and listen to the DG webinar presentation
3. Get a summary of important slides
4. Learn how to get more info and provide comments on the Study

What is Dispersed Generation?

Definition: Dispersed generation is a decentralized power plant, feeding into the distribution level power-grid and typically sized between 10 and 150 MW. (source)

Our electric utility infrastructure in this country is based on a system of large power plants feeding power to customers through a vast transmission and distribution system, collectively known as “the grid”. Dispersed generation is a concept where smaller, highly efficient power plants would be built along the existing grid, close to the end-user customer. It is similar in concept to the move from large central computers to desktop computers on a network. Minnesota, with our strong renewable energy capabilities, is ideally suited to take advantage of dispersed generation across the state.

Dispersed generation offers a variety of advantages for many perspectives. Energy consumers, power providers, and other stakeholders all have their own reasons for wanting greater adoption of distributed generation. Distributed power generators are small compared with typical central station power plants and provide unique benefits that are not available from centralized electricity generation. Many of these benefits stem from the fact that the generating units are inherently modular, which makes distributed power highly flexible. It can provide power where it is needed, when it is needed. And because they typically rely on natural gas or renewable resources, the generators can be quieter and less polluting than large power plants, which makes them suitable for on-site installation at some customer locations.

The Minnesota NextGen Energy Act was passed in 2007 by the Minnesota Legislature, and one of the requirements was a statewide study of Dispersed Renewable Generation Potential. This study is being led by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, and the Phase 1 findings are those shared during this webinar.

To get more background information, see other dispersed generation resources on the CERTs site.

How Might it Work in My Region of MN?

Download Presentation The DG Webinar answers this question well. To begin, click to download the presentation and audio from the webinar (this may take a few minutes):

NOTE: Hold SHIFT key and click to open documents in a new window

Webinar Presentation (600kb PDF)
Audio from the Webinar Presentation (43mb WAV file)

A Summary of Key Slides:

Lists the 42 sites on the potential shortlist for dispersed renewable generation

Shows their locations

Shows how many MWs could be plugged into each site.

Is bad news for northern Minnesota, as it tries to explain the Dorsey Transformer way up in Manitoba. The electrons get up there on a 230kv line, so they can jump on a 500 kv line, which creates an overload. All ways to fix this problem get fairly expensive.

Is the cost analysis for each site NOT INCLUDING the Dorsey Transformer issue.

Is the state aggregation of how to select the sites to get to 600 MW in this first phase. Because of the Dorsey Transformer issue, the recommendations for the transmission zones are 0 MWs in the NW, 40 MWs in the NE, 100 MWs in the SE, 160 MWs in the SW and 300 MWs in the SE.

Is the map of the final Dispersed Renewable Generation sites recommended.

More Info & Comments

To see the full Phase 1 Report for the Study,
visit the Department of Commerce Web site

Please send any questions or comments that you have on the Distributed Generation Study to DGstudy.Commerce@state.mn.us

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    CERTs Partners:

Minnesota Department of Commerce University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission