The nation's largest wind-power contractor, Mortenson Construction, said Tuesday that it formed a new business unit to install large battery storage systems for the electric grid and commercial operations.

The company said it will offer engineering, construction and integration of energy storage in the new unit based in its Golden Valley headquarters.

It is the second Minnesota renewable energy contractor to enter the large-scale battery storage market. Blattner Energy, based in Avon, Minn., completed its first grid battery installation in February in Illinois and recently was chosen to construct a combination solar and battery project for a New Orleans utility.

Mortenson sees an opportunity to install battery storage not only for utilities, but also for sports facilities and corporate and institutional buildings — another big part of its construction business. In the corporate market, the technology potentially offers significant savings on demand-related utility charges.

"That is a really, really exciting part of the industry," Brent Bergland, a Mortenson executive who will lead its battery storage business, said in an interview. "We have a tremendous amount of untapped potential in our existing base of operations. We plan to make sure our customers' businesses are running better because they are smarter planners of energy consumption."

GTM Research, which tracks the battery storage market, has reported steady growth in projects for the electric grid and for big power customers, which can benefit by using stored electricity to cut demand-related utility fees,

Ravi Manghani, an energy storage analyst for GTM Research, said Mortenson joins six other major engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies now competing for large-scale battery projects.

Minnesota has just one grid-scale battery, a 2-megawatt (2 million watt) storage system owned by Xcel Energy near a Luverne, Minn., wind farm. GTM Research projects that by 2019, annual U.S. installations of such systems will total 858 megawatts — 13 times the size of the 2014 market.

Bergland said Mortenson hopes to announce its first battery projects by the end of the year.

Mortenson has 148 wind projects completed or under construction and 57 solar projects completed or under construction. Engineering News-Record ranks the company as the nation's top wind farm builder with $343 million in projects last year. It is the nation's fourth-largest solar contractor and the third-largest transmission project builder. It also is contractor for the new Minnesota Vikings football stadium in downtown Minneapolis, where it earlier built Target Field for the Minnesota Twins.

Blattner also is a major North American energy contractor that has completed more than 225 solar, wind and power delivery projects.

David Shaffer • 612-673-7090

Twitter: @ShafferStrib