Located at the northern edge of the central plains, Minnesota is one of the largest Midwestern states. It has significant renewable resources, including energy from winds that blow unobstructed across the state’s open prairies. Minnesota’s rolling plains are covered by fertile topsoil, giving the state some of the nation’s richest farmland, which, along with 17 million acres of forest lands, provide the state with ample biomass potential. The state’s abundant cornfields produce Minnesota’s most valuable crop and provide feedstock for the state’s many ethanol plants. With almost 70,000 miles of natural streams and rivers, Minnesota’s fast-flowing waterways are a hydropower resource.

Minnesota plays an important role in moving fossil fuels to markets across the Midwest and beyond.

Minnesota has no fossil fuel production, but the state plays an important role in moving fossil fuels to markets across the Midwest and beyond. More than one-fourth of the length of the Mississippi River flows through Minnesota.The Mississippi River carries half of the state’s agricultural exports, as well as other commodities, including petroleum and coal. But Lake Superior, on Minnesota’s northeastern border, is the waterway that plays the most significant role in energy transport. The Port of Duluth on the shores of Lake Superior is at the western end of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which connects the port to worldwide shipping. Coal from Wyoming and Montana is transferred from rail to ship at the port to move east. Several pipelines bring Western crude oil into the state, and other pipelines move Canadian supplies of crude oil from the north to Minnesota’s refineries and on to other U.S. markets.

Minnesota’s climate is known for Arctic chills in the winter. While the northern part of the state has reported freezing temperatures in every month of the year, southern Minnesota can experience prolonged heat spells in the summer when warm air pushes up from the Gulf of Mexico. Even so, Minnesota’s per capita energy consumption is lower than one-third of the states. The industrial sector, which includes the energy-intensive petroleum refining and food processing industries, leads the state in energy consumption, followed by the electric power sector. The transportation sector is the third-largest energy consuming sector, followed closely by the residential sector. The commercial sector is the least energy-intensive end use sector in the state.

Renewable Energy

Quick Facts

  • In 2015, Minnesota ranked fourth in the nation in ethanol production nameplate capacity and fifth in operating production.
  • The Pine Bend Refinery, the largest oil refinery in Minnesota, is the largest oil refinery located in a non-oil-producing state.
  • About 44% of utility-scale electricity generation in Minnesota came from coal-fired electric power plants in 2015.  Most of Minnesota’s coal supply comes by rail from Wyoming and Montana.
  • Two nuclear power plants in Minnesota, the Monticello reactor and the Prairie Island I and II reactors, accounted for 20.9% of the state’s net electricity generation in 2015.
  • Minnesota ranked seventh in the nation in net electricity generation from wind energy in 2015. Minnesota’s net generation from wind was 9.8 million megawatthours in 2015.

Minnesota is a major producer of wind-generated electricity. The state has numerous wind farms, particularly in its southwest. Minnesota is among the top 10 states in the nation in both installed wind capacity and net electricity generation from wind, and more than one-sixth of the state’s net generation came from wind power in 2015. Minnesota also generates electricity from other renewable sources, including municipal solid waste, landfill gas, wood waste, and hydroelectric dams. Several of the state’s hydroelectric power plants are found along the Mississippi River. Many of the biomass power plants are located near Minneapolis in southern Minnesota.Renewable resources, including hydroelectric power, fueled one-fifth of the state’s net electricity generation in 2015.

Minnesota is among the top 10 states in both installed wind capacity and net electricity generation from wind.

Minnesota is a top producer of ethanol, with 21 ethanol production plants, most of which are located in the southern part of the state. In 2007, the state put in place a 4-year program that offered incentives to encourage the adoption of E85, a mixture of 85% ethanol with 15% motor gasoline. From 2007 to 2011, funding assistance was provided to fuel retailers for the installation of equipment to dispense E85 to the public. Minnesota now has more E85 refueling stations than any other state and about one-tenth of the nation’s total. In addition to Minnesota’s requirement that motor gasoline sold in the state be at least a 10% blended ethanol mixture, the state’s biodiesel mandate requires that diesel fuel sold in the state contain at least 10% biodiesel during the months of April through September and at least 5% biodiesel during the rest of the year. On May 1, 2018, the blend required from April through September increases to a minimum of 20% biodiesel. Minnesota has three biodiesel plants with a combined capacity of about 63 million gallons per year.

Minnesota has a renewable energy standard that applies to all electricity providers in the state. It requires that at least 25% of the providers’ retail electricity sales be obtained from eligible renewable sources by 2025. The requirements vary by utility size and ownership. Specific minimum amounts of public utility electricity sales must come from wind and solar resources. As of 2013, investor-owned utilities are required to have 1.5% of retail electricity sales sourced from solar energy by 2020. A statewide goal of 10% of retail electricity sales from solar by 2030 has been established.


Coal-fired power plants provide the largest share of Minnesota’s net electricity generation. The state’s largest power plant is the coal-fired Sherburne County plant, which has a generating capacity more than twice that of each of the next two largest power plants in the state, the Clay Boswell coal-fired plant and the Prairie Island nuclear facility. Although coal fuels more than two-fifths of Minnesota’s net electricity generation, nuclear power is a significant contributor. The state’s two nuclear power plants are located on the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota and provide slightly more than one-fifth of the state’s net electricity generation.Electricity in Minnesota is also generated from wind, natural gas, biomass, conventional hydropower, and solar energy.

Most of the electricity in Minnesota is generated by electric utilities; however, an increasing amount is provided by independent power producers. From 2003 to 2015, the contribution from independent power producers to the state’s net generation increased more than fourfold. Independent power producers now provide more than one-sixth of Minnesota’s net electricity generation, most of which is from renewable resources, primarily wind. Retail electricity sales are almost equal across the residential, industrial, and commercial end-use sectors. Fewer than one-sixth of Minnesota’s households use electricity for home heating.

Natural Gas

Minnesota does not have any natural gas production or reserves. Although the state is crossed by several natural gas pipelines, it does not have any natural gas market centers. Natural gas supplies enter Minnesota primarily from Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Canada. The state ships almost three-fourths of the natural gas it receives to Iowa and to Wisconsin on its way to markets in the Midwest and beyond. The industrial sector is Minnesota’s largest natural gas user, accounting for more than one-third of the state’s consumption. The residential sector, where two-thirds of the households heat with natural gas, typically uses around three-tenths of the natural gas delivered to consumers.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (Mar 2017)

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