Thinking big: Minnesota co-op leads tour for local grad students

The following is an excerpt from an article in RE Magazine featuring Dee Anne Norris, CEO of Renville-Sibley Cooperative Power Association, a Basin Electric Class C member

Tour participants view one of nine pulverizers at Basin Electric’s Antelope Valley Station Unit 1 near Beulah, North Dakota. The pulverizers crush lignite coal for combustion in the boiler. Photo credit: Renville-Sibley CPA

As we prepare for Basin Electric’s 2023 tour season, the folks at Renville-Sibley Cooperative Power Association worked with the University of Minnesota to provide students pursuing master’s degrees in science, technology, and environmental policy to a weeklong tour of distribution co-ops and generation and transmission co-ops in Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota. 

“These students are going to lead us into the future from a public policy and an environmental perspective,” says DeeAnne Norris, Renville-Sibley’s CEO. “It’s important that they understand there’s an obligation to keep energy reliable and affordable while trying to marry that up with renewable energy and sustainability.” 

The mid-May tour began at Renville-Sibley in Danube, Minnesota, with a discussion about broadband, solar energy and farming. It continued with stops at several facilities run by Basin Electric Power Cooperative, the North Dakota-based G&T owned by 131 member co-ops that provide electricity to 3 million people in nine states. 

Other visits included Sioux Valley Energy, East River Electric, and Lake Region Electric Cooperative

“It’s important for the students to be able to get out there in the field to see the really big energy infrastructure,” says Gabriel Chan, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota and co-director of the Electric Cooperative Innovation Center, a new initiative focused on research partnerships with co-ops. “You read about wind, hydro, or coal plants, but being there is an entirely different experience.” 

Norris urges other co-ops across the country to connect with local universities or university extension offices and plan similar experiences that can raise awareness of energy systems in rural areas and how consumer-centric utilities like co-ops can lead the energy transition. 

Read more in Rural Electric Magazine: ‘Thinking Big: Minnesota Co-op Leads Tour for Local Grad Students’

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