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Minnesota’s Electricity Supply

By March 4, 2024Commentary

The climate hysterics, environmental whackos and rich people have combined to do their best to make Minnesota’s electricity as expensive and unreliable as California’s, in a state that is far colder.  The operator of the Minnesota grid has released a paper detailing the problems as fossil fuel plants are shut down and replaced by intermittent generators that are both costly and environmentally damaging.  While the authors try to walk a delicate line, you can tell they are very concerned about the likelihood of blackouts.  Every Minnesotan should read this.  (MISO Report)

And Dave Dixon returns with a very nice chart to display just how dependent on nuclear and fossil fuel Minnesota has been and how impossible it is for so-called renewables to even begin to make a dent.  Dave’s conclusion in his notes is mildly put, but the charts show exactly what is going to happen when the coal and gas plants are shut–we aren’t going to have enough electricity by a long shot.

Dave’s notes:

  1. The recent closure on 12/31/2023 of one of the three Sherco coal-fired powerplants in Becker, MN (link) prompted us to review the trends in Minnesota’s power generation. The Sherco coal plant will be replaced with 3000 acres of solar panels (link).
  2. The EIA publishes monthly generation totals by state and by power source (link). The data runs from January 2001 through November 2023.
  3. Fig. 1, Minnesota Monthly Electrical Generation by Source – Megawatt-hours: This chart shows the monthly output of the major sources of electricity in Minnesota. The values shown to the right are for November 2023. “Other” is the sum of generation from petroleum, wood, hydroelectric, biomass, and what the EIA calls other. We can see that in January 2001, electricity in Minnesota was largely generated from coal and nuclear, with a small amount of electricity from natural gas and other. As the years went by, coal generation was replaced by wind and natural gas, in roughly equal amounts. Power from solar is nearly insignificant, especially in winter when it becomes a rounding error in the overall makeup of power generation.
  4. Fig. 2, Minnesota Monthly Electrical Generation by Source – Percent of Monthly Total: This chart shows the same data as Figure 1, merely converted to a percentage of total monthly generation. The percentages shown to the right of the chart are the values for November 2023. In January 2001, the proportions were 67% coal, 24% nuclear, and 2% or less from the other sources. In November 2023, the proportions were 28% coal, 32% wind, 22% natural gas, 10% nuclear, and small amounts of all other sources. Solar peaks at 5% in May 2023 and had back to 3% by November 2023.
  5. All of this is relevant due to the Minnesota Carbon Free 2040 legislation passed in 2023 (link), which requires eliminating electricity from coal or natural gas, unless potentially expensive variances are granted to allow continued used of carbon based fuels. All of the remaining coal fired power plants in Minnesota are scheduled for closure in the coming years. It seems likely that the natural gas power plants are the only reason that the electric grid has remained stable as the coal plants were retired. It seems unlikely that wind and solar will be able to adequately replace natural gas power plants if they are retired by 2040 as the law requires.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • John Oh says:

    Carbon free is a delusion. You night be interested in Tucker Carlson’s recent brief interview with the Alberta Premier, Danielle Smith. Smith said her priority was to provide Albertans with reliable and affordable power. What’s Minnesota or the US priority? You call them “climate hysterics, environmental whackos and rich people” Carlson referred to it as “rich kid lifestyle liberalism.” Smith said that recently Alberta was just 40 mw away from blackouts while at a peak generation of 12,500 mw. Alberta has 6000 mw wind and solar, and at the time solar was at 0, and wind at 7 mw. 120,000 families without power for 30 minutes or more at a time. Dave’s chart show that Minnesota is headed toward where Alberta is now, and it will only get worse. Recall that 341 people died in Texas when the grid failed.

  • David says:

    I’m thinking the ” Climate Change Wackos” are Good People at heart. Just trying to make things better. Too bad that most have never been Taught to Think and Reason. Thus like a Flock of Sheep easily led. Thank God they haven’t become Lemings headed over the Cliff…..Well, maybe that would be a good thing 🤔

  • joethenonclimatescientist says:

    In response to John Oh – there is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding on the failure of the Texas Grid in Feb 2021. Russel S has posted numerous articles through climate etc with a much more balanced explanation of all the failures involved.

    In summary, The pricing structure of for electric generation diverted money away from proper maintenance of the entire grid. That caused a short term failure of the gas electric generation plants which lost 40% of generation capacity for approx 24 hours and 20% loss of generation capacity for another 24-30 hours. approx 48-60 hours total.

    At the same time , electric generation from wind lost 70-90% of electric generation for 5 days and 50% loss of generation for another 4 days – That loss was across the north american continent. while the gas generation failure was confined to Texas. Wind and solar, while not the direct cause of the Texas Feb 21 fiasco, they did prove they are not a solution

  • Dan says:

    “ electric generation from wind lost 70-90% of electric generation for 5 days and 50% loss of generation for another 4 days”

    Wind was a direct cause if that statement is true. Also the graphs above showing 30+% from wind are misleading since that doesn’t show how many % of the time wind was available.

  • John Oh says:

    Thanks Joe. I’ve read explanations from “climate scientists” that were a whole lot longer and a lot less clear and to the point. Texas was a fiasco. That’s why it got Premiere Smith’s full attention. She said the Texas grid mirrored in many ways Alberta’s grid, and she doesn’t want Albertans to be freezing in the cold because the base generation capacity is not enough. Alberta is adding more gas powered generation to provide better service and avoid blackouts.

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