Minneapolis Electric cooperatives in Minnesota kicked off a $5 million demonstration project this week with the execution of contracts for hardware and software that will help modernize Minnesota’s electric grid.

As part of the National Rural Electric Association (NRECA’s) $34 million grant program, Minnesota cooperatives Great River Energy, Lake Region Electric Cooperative and Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative will implement software systems to manage the large amounts of data collected from smart meters. Other components of the demonstration project include the installation of in-home displays to signal homeowners when electricity prices spike; ability for customers to access their electricity usage data via the web; enhanced demand response management tools; and demonstration of energy storage devices, including residential battery storage systems and grid-interactive electric thermal storage water heaters.

“This demonstration project will enable our cooperatives and member-consumers to have a better understanding of the data available through smart grid systems, while also providing for more strategic demand response and load control programs,” said Gary Connett, director of demand side management and member services, Great River Energy. “The software tools, combined with demonstrations of pricing and energy storage solutions, will help modernize the electric grid in Minnesota, and provide valuable information for future smart grid solutions.”

“Nationwide, cooperatives are leading in the deployment of smart meter infrastructure, the development of interoperability and cyber security,” said John Hewa, NRECA’s Vice President of Research, Engineering and Technical Services. “With challenging service territories that cover more than 70 percent of the country’s landmass, cooperatives are researching and developing new technologies that can drive down costs and improve service for their members. Consumer trust in their co-op has allowed cooperatives to make these investments in leading-edge technologies.”

NRECA’s research arm, the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), is managing procurement of the software and equipment for the demonstration project, including contracts with the following companies:

  • National Information Solutions Cooperative providing meter data management and demand response management systems.
  • Steffes Corporation providing load control devices and software.
  • Aclara Technologies providing load management switches.
  • Silent Power, Inc. providing residential battery storage systems.
  • Marathon Water Heaters providing grid-interactive electric thermal storage water heaters.

Supported by a matching grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, a total of 23 cooperatives nationwide are participating in smart grid demonstration projects, deploying more than 75 technologies and equipment in 12 states.