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Electric Co-op Supports Community Innovation

Fort Collins-based Poudre Valley REA is working with the community of Red Feather Lakes to create a microgrid. The small community in northern Colorado gets its electricity delivered by a single transmission line, which is vulnerable to wildfires such as the Cameron Peak Fire currently threatening the area. It is also vulnerable to high winds, winter storms and car accidents — all of which can take out the power line and cause extended outages.

A community-driven microgrid project was initiated when the Red Feather Lakes library was awarded a grant to pursue solar panels. PVREA will control and own the microgrid, which will be installed at the local fire station. It features a 140-kilowatt/448-kilowatt-hour battery with 3.2 hours of storage. And the library, across from the fire station will have a 20-kilowatt solar array.

This innovative partnership between the community and the co-op is sure to be a model for future microgrid projects both in Colorado and nationwide.

Holy Cross Energy Wins Award

Holy Cross Energy was nationally recognized and named the Electric Cooperative of the Year by the Smart Electric Power Alliance.

The Electric Cooperative Utility of the Year Award is given to an electric co-op that demonstrates leadership through innovation to significantly advance clean energy and grid modernization. In 2018, Holy Cross Energy adopted the Seventy70Thirty Plan, which established the goal for the co-op to attain 70% renewable supply by 2030. HCE is taking assertive steps to achieve this goal, including PPAs with a 100-megawatt wind project and a 30-MW solar project, both of which went online in 2019.

Grid modernization and clean energy solutions are the focus of the Smart Electric Power Alliance, providing tools and resources to electric utilities to engage in forward-thinking change. Each year SEPA awards utilities which demonstrate this innovative thinking to advance clean energy and create replicable projects.

Watch a message from SEPA President and CEO Julia Hamm and Holy Cross Energy’s President and CEO Bryan Hannegan: https://youtu.be/Nx-mJ7UnHHc

solar panels being installed

Gunnison Electric Adds Solar for Community

In its continual effort to “Green the Grid,” Gunnison County Electric Association announced a second community solar garden, located on the roof at the co-op’s headquarters in Gunnison.

The electric co-op will lease solar panels on a month-to-month basis or consumer-members can participate in a 20-year lease agreement. There are already 195 panels leased, with the maximum shares being 5 panels per meter.

Though not in production yet, the array will be able to produce 100.8 kW. The system is entirely constructed and ready to operate, but according to GCEA Strategy Execution Specialist Matt Feier, it is awaiting approval from Tri-State and FERC before it can begin regular operation.

This innovative approach to community solar is well-received by the communities GCEA serves.

“Once members understand the community solar garden concept, it tends to be a no-brainer,” Feier says. “So much so that we are already looking for locations for our next community solar project.”

The Energy Star Logo: the Symbol that Changed Efficiency Standards

By Paul Wesslund

The little blue (and sometimes black) logo with the star inside that you see on all sorts of appliances and electronics has changed the way we view savings through more efficient products.

The Energy Star® program claims credit for reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and for saving Americans $30 billion in energy costs. Analysts credit Energy Star with innovating the energy industry, as manufacturers set goals of making more energy-efficient products than their competitors.

What the Energy Star logo does is make it easy to know whether a product you’re thinking about buying is more energy efficient than other models. Essentially the program looks at the average energy use of each type of product and awards the Energy Star rating to top performers based on different criteria — a refrigerator needs to be 9% more energy efficient than the minimum efficiency standard; a computer needs to use 25% less electricity than conventional models and include a power-saving mode option when it’s not being used.

So, if the appliance or electronic device you purchase includes the Energy Star logo, you know it’s among the most energy-efficient products available. That simplicity is the secret to the success of the program that is run by the federal Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The program’s effectiveness comes from a complex process of making sure the Energy Star logo is accurate and trusted — and the numbers show it is trusted. Americans bought more than 300 million Energy Star-rated products in 2017 alone, and an Energy Star study found that three-fourths of U.S. households say the Energy Star label influences their purchases.

Today, more than 500 certified labs in 25 countries around the world test nearly than 2,000 products a year — along with surprise inspections — to manage a list of 60,000 product models. Energy Star runs seminars on how to meet its standards. Those standards require that televisions must use 3 watts or less when switched off; lightbulbs must use two-thirds less energy than standard incandescent bulbs; Energy Star home furnaces must be between 4% and 15% more efficient than standard furnaces.

Energy Star tests also require quality standards in addition to energy efficiency. In general, products must have popular features, such as internet connectivity for smart televisions. Lightbulbs must last up to 15 times longer and produce 70% to 90% less heat than conventional bulbs.

In 2018, Energy Star tested 1,792 models, disqualifying 59 of them. Of the 858 different kinds of lighting and fans tested that year, 51 were disqualified. Of the 35 televisions tested, two were disqualified.

Energy Star caught on because it has something for everybody — ways for consumers to save money; ways for businesses to promote their efficient products; online calculators for those wanting deep dives into finding the ideal energy use; and for the rest of us, a simple little logo that tells us we’re buying one of the most energy-efficient products available.

Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.