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Meet Great River Energy, Member of the Month

September 6th, 2017

Great River Energy (GRE) has a long history with Environmental Initiative (remember when it was Minnesota Environmental Initiative?). One of our early connections was with Energy Alley, which provided a clearinghouse of environmental information for businesses and individuals.

Energy Alley was the first collaborative effort in Minnesota to advance renewable energy and efficiency in what is now known as the clean energy sector.

Over the years, GRE has continued to support Environmental Initiative’s work, and we congratulate this fine non-profit organization on 25 very successful years of bringing together stakeholders– businesses, NGOs, government, citizens– to work toward viable solutions to Minnesota’s environmental problems.


For many years GRE has been a premier sponsor of Environmental Initiative’s annual Environmental Initiative Awards event. This event brings together over 400 environmental leaders to celebrate and honor innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results through the power of partnership. GRE has also been a long-time sponsor of Environmental Initiative’s Legislative Preview, a Policy Forum event hosted each year. We are a member of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition which, led by members of the business community, has worked on initiatives including growth in renewable energy for electric end uses such as electric vehicles. Through this work and outside of it, GRE views Environmental Initiative as a stakeholder in the environmental community and seeks their input.


Personally, I’ve been involved with Environmental Initiative for more than 10 years and was honored to serve on the organization’s board for nine of those years. During that time, I was able to experience a closer view of the “inner workings” of Environmental Initiative. An organization’s most important asset is its employees, and Environmental Initiative is no exception. I have always been impressed with the quality and dedication of staff. Each brings a unique skill set and vibrant enthusiasm to their job. Professionally leading the organization and thoughtfully carrying out its mission is Executive Director Mike Harley, who is celebrating his 20-year anniversary with the organization next month. Through Mike’s leadership, relationships, commitment and energy, Environmental Initiative continues to evolve and remains a highly respected organization in our community.

So, happy 25th birthday, Environmental Initiative– and here’s to 25 more fantastic years of making positive change happen for the betterment of our environment and our citizens.

Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 8108 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Mary Jo Roth


Manager, Environmental Services at Great River Energy

Meet Great River Energy: Member of the Month

July 5th, 2016

Great River Energy is a not-for-profit cooperative which provides wholesale electric service to 28 distribution cooperatives located in Minnesota. Those member cooperatives distribute electricity to approximately 665,000 families, farms and businesses. With $4 billion in assets, Great River Energy is the second largest electric power supplier in Minnesota, and one of the largest generation and transmission cooperatives in the United States.

Great River Energy takes great pride in conducting our business with a high concern for the environment.

We are committed to conserving resources through environmental stewardship, pollution prevention, waste minimization, recycling and reuse. This dedication is demonstrated by the inclusion of environmental sustainability in our mission.

As a cooperative, Great River Energy holds commitment to community in high regard. One of the ways we do that is through re-establishing native habitat.

We are excited to be announcing a new project!HQ prairie solar.jpg

Together with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the city of Elk River, Great River Energy will be converting nine acres into pollinator prairie habitat at its Elk River campus off U.S. Highway 10. With more than 27,000 cars driving by daily, this well-traveled area is perfect for educating the traveling public about the importance of pollinator friendly, prairie plantings.

Past native prairie projects

Great River Energy, for the last decade, has invested in over 200 acres of re-established native prairie.  Some of Great River Energy’s native prairie projects include:

  • Establishing native prairie along transmission lines outside of Savage, Minn., and in the city of Ramsey, Minn., both with park systems.
  • Planting pollinator friendly habitat along Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center’s solar array and in their interpretive center in fall 2015.
  • Incorporating pollinator prairie as part of the landscape architecture at Great River Energy’s headquarters building in Maple Grove, Minn.
  • Restoring more than 120 acres of prairie near Lakefield Junction Station, Pleasant Valley Peaking Station, Cambridge Peaking Plant, and near Great River Energy’s New Prague office.

More resources

For more information about the Elk River pollinator project, visit greatriverenergy.com/elkriverbees.

For more information and links to resources about native plantings, visit greatriverenergy.com/pollinators.

Great River Energy has had a long-term commitment to Environmental Initiative. We have been a member of the Convener Partnership Circle for some time, and this year marked our ninth year as a presenting sponsor of the Environmental Initiative Awards program held each May. Great River Energy is a proud supporter of Environmental Initiative.

Mary Jo Roth


Manager, Environmental Services at Great River Energy

Great River Energy Partnership Provides Pollinator Habitat

June 21st, 2016

It’s no secret that our insect pollinators are in danger. We know if we don’t do something soon, we risk losing many of our domesticated bees and entire species of wild pollinators.

In fact, Environmental Initiative held a summit earlier this spring in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to gather real and meaningful ideas from the community to protect pollinators from stressors like habitat loss, pesticides use and a changing climate.Monarch on flower.jpg

We were excited to learn that Great River Energy, one of our longstanding members and supporters, is working to help create valuable habitat for bees and butterflies.

In honor of National Pollinator Week, June 20 to 26, I sat down with Craig Poorker, manager, land rights at Great River Energy to learn more about their work and get their advice for businesses that are considering doing the same.

To get started, what is Great River Energy doing to provide pollinator habitat?

Great River Energy, along with the city of Elk River and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), is working to bring back nine acres of vibrant, ecologically-diverse pollinator friendly native habitat at our Elk River campus on U.S. Highway 10. It is a unique opportunity for us to add to the nationwide effort to restore pollinator populations, while also working with partners who are committed to doing the same.

Where did the idea come from?

Great River Energy has been a leader in restoring native habitat for more than a decade. We have restored about 200 acres of native habitat across Minnesota, including at our headquarters facility in Maple Grove, near our peaking stations and along a transmission line near Savage, Minn. We also recently worked on a small planting and educational event with Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, where fifth graders participated in a prairie planting near a solar array.

While Great River Energy has long been committed to native habitat re-establishment, there is so much public support for pollinator habitat projects that we began looking for more opportunities again last year.

The Elk River campus is a unique location for pollinator habitat. We’re able to educate more and increase environmental awareness simply because our project is located near the Mississippi River along one of Minnesota’s most heavily traveled roads. An estimated 27,700 motorists will pass by the new prairie every day.

What was your biggest challenge with this project?

Our lawn has always been well manicured and appreciated by our employees and the community. It is a noticeable landmark in Elk River so we knew that it was important to start talking with community leaders and employees in advance to help them understand the “why’s” behind the change.

Awareness of the decline in pollinator populations is high and many people are excited about the project. We are hearing a lot of positive support. On the other hand, we also know that the lawn will be missed.

We are working with highly experienced landscape architects and prairie experts to make sure we do it right. We also know it will take some time before the native habitat is fully established.

Restoring pollinator habitat will give the campus a new look, and an important new purpose. Once the plants mature, the campus will be a beautiful new source of pride. It will not happen overnight. Fortunately, we do have an underground sprinkler system that will help the prairie mature more quickly than it otherwise would.

Why did Great River Energy decide to do this?

This is the right project at the right time for the right reasons. Both MnDOT and the city of Elk River, through their Energy City plan, also have pollinator habitat goals, and this is a great way to support each other and the environment. Four of the nine acres of this project are in MnDOT’s right of way.

And the time is right. The decline in pollinator populations is widely recognized now, and public awareness of the importance of native habitat has significantly increased.

Approximately 25 percent of Great River Energy’s employees work and live in Elk River. This is an opportunity for us all to support the nationwide effort.

What one piece of advice would you give other businesses and organizations that are looking to try something similar?

Help people understand why your project is important, find experienced vendors to work with, and find like-minded partners. We can do more together than individually. We appreciate our partnership with MnDOT and the city of Elk River. This partnership and project supports important environmental goals that that we all share.


Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

Great River Energy Sees Utility Role in PEV Advancement

April 1st, 2015

Great River Energy provides wholesale electricity to 28 member cooperatives across Minnesota. As a cooperative, we are motivated by listening to and providing services for our member-owners and their consumers. So when we noticed a growing interest in plug-in electric Great River Energy Logovehicles (PEVs), we decided to explore the technology and our potential role in that market.

What we discovered after our initial research efforts is the important role PEVs will play in increasing energy security, improving fuel economy, lowering consumers’ overall fuel costs and reducing emissions. We also believe that electric utilities play an intrinsic role in consumers’ consideration of PEVs as a personal transportation option. Fleet electrification may also prove beneficial for business and industry.

Benefits to members
We are already looking at ways to make it easier for consumers to drive electric vehicles, and currently offer rebates for residential charging stations that encourage off-peak or time-of-use vehicle charging. This strategy enables consumers to use more electricity during night-time hours when prices are typically lower and when the electricity is frequently produced from the region’s abundant wind resources.

We are also looking at what it takes to develop PEV charging infrastructure in greater Minnesota. We have two PEV chargers for public use at our Maple Grove headquarters with plans to install additional charging equipment in 2015, including a number of Level 1 charging ports for employees. Great River Energy is proud to have been accepted as a Department of Energy Workplace Challenge partner.

Stakeholder engagement, partnerships and research
We think it’s important to listen to a variety of stakeholders and are participating in Drive Electric Minnesota, a coalition of groups that work collaboratively to bring electric vehicles and plug-in charging infrastructure here. We also conducted a summit last year to learn more about PEVs from nonprofits, government and environmental groups, subject matter experts, electric engineers as well as PEV owners.

Next steps
Great River Energy anticipates going further down the paths of stakeholder engagement, research, demonstration, infrastructure pilots and partnerships in an effort to increase PEV market stimulation.

We believe we can provide utility leadership in educating our members and promoting PEVs as a realistic transportation option. We look forward to helping promote and develop a robust PEV market in Minnesota.

Learn more about Great River Energy and the cooperative difference at greatriverenergy.com.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 101 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Gary Connett


Director, Demand Side Management and Member Services, Great River Energy

Meet Our Members: Great River Energy

March 3rd, 2014

Great River Energy is a not-for-profit, wholesale electric cooperative owned by its 28 member distribution cooperatives. We make electricity for those members, located across the state of Minnesota, who then sell it to the end-use customer — their members.

As a cooperative, Great River Energy believes in working together. We understand that shared dialogue is an effective way to find collaborative solutions. Environmental Initiative also believes that we can do better for the environment by working together. Both Environmental Initiative and Great River Energy recognize that partnerships are a powerful tool. This shared philosophy and approach is one reason why Great River Energy suppoSolar panels at Great River Energyrts Environmental Initiative’s work and is a member.

Great River Energy has had a long-term commitment to Environmental Initiative. We are a proud member of the Convener Partnership Circle and this is our seventh year as a presenting sponsor of the Environmental Initiative Awards program event held each May.

Several Great River Energy employees are individual members of Environmental Initiative as well, many of whom have participated as planning members or panelists in Environmental Initiative’s policy forums. I am also a member of Environmental Initiative’s board of directors and currently serve as board chair.

Great River Energy is committed to the communities in which we live and work. We have an ongoing commitment to manage our business in a way that minimizes impact to the environment. As an example, we recently announced plans to construct 650 kilowatts (kW) of new solar energy installations by mid-2015. The first construction project is a 250 kW solar array slated for land south of Great River Energy¹s headquarters facility and will include a mix of technologies to help determine how solar energy installations can be integrated into cooperative systems. The remaining 400 kW may include up to 20 individual projects located in our member cooperatives’ systems across the state.

Great River Energy is a proud supporter of Environmental Initiative.
A note from Environmental Initiative: We’ll be featuring information about one of our members each month on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Casillas at 612-334-3388 ext. 101 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Photo credit: Great River Energy.

Great River Energy’s headquarters facility, located in Maple Grove, Minn., has 72 kilowatts of on-site solar panels and a 200-kilowatt wind turbine.

Mary Jo Roth


Manager, Environmental Services at Great River Energy
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