Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Pat Wrase
New Ulm Public Utilities
Q – There is frequent news about renewable energy and global warming. What is the New Ulm Public Utilities Commission doing with respect to renewable energy?
A – New Ulm receives a significant supply of electrical energy from a renewable wind energy facility. The wind energy comes from the Wessington Springs Wind Energy Center located in central South Dakota. At the current time, 20 percent of New Ulm’s total energy supply is sourced from Wessington Springs. This quantity will increase slightly in 2019 in order to provide approximately 24 percent of New Ulm’s energy from renewable resources.
At the present time, the State of Minnesota Statute 216B.1691 requires most electric utilities in the state to obtain 17 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2016, 20 percent by 2020 and 25 percent by 2025. Both cooperative utilities and municipal utilities, such as the NUPUC, are exempt from the state renewable portfolio standard. However, during the long-term power planning that occurred for the NUPUC over a decade ago, the NUPUC commissioners recommended a power supply that complied with the statutory requirements on a voluntary basis.
The NUPUC continues to look for possibilities to expand our renewable energy supply in order to reduce our environmental footprint and maintain competitive power costs for our customers. At the present time, the NUPUC staff is examining the potential for a solar project to be added to the electric supply.
Although still a higher cost option than the NUPUC’s other electrical energy sources, the pricing of solar has come down substantially over the past few years. Continued equipment cost reductions may make solar a viable option for the New Ulm power supply in the years moving forward and help the city of New Ulm electrical supply to reach the 25 percent renewable level by 2025.