PVREA Expands Solar Generation Portfolio

Fort Collins-based electric cooperative Poudre Valley REA recently announced two new solar arrays with a combined capacity of 2 megawatts are online and generating clean, renewable electricity for its service territory.

These arrays expand two of the three existing utility-scale solar projects completed by the partnership between PVREA and Silicon Ranch. The Kersey Solar Farm, located adjacent to Platte Valley High School in Kersey, and the Skylark Solar Farm near Severance together have the capacity to generate enough electricity to power over 2,100 PVREA households annually.

Silicon Ranch, one of the nation’s largest independent solar power producers, funded the construction and owns and operates the new facilities for the long term, as it does with every project it develops. The construction of these facilities supported approximately 60 jobs, many of which were filled by local labor and local subcontractors and brought roughly $2,000,000 of labor related income to the community.

In recent years, PVREA has made significant carbon-free advancements by incorporating local renewable energy into the electric grid. PVREA’s current power mix includes two hydroelectric generators, four large solar arrays, and three community-owned solar farms. With these two new arrays now operational, the co-op has brought online 11 local renewable energy projects totaling 20.5 MW of renewable energy that powers 3,650 homes and businesses in the service territory. Altogether, PVREA members receive 30% of their energy from renewable resources, which is planned to increase to 50% by 2024.

Mountain Parks Electric Helps Local District Buy Electric School Bus

Thanks in part to Granby-based electric cooperative, Mountain Parks Electric, West Grand School District plans to add an electric school bus to its fleet to be used on daily routes. In addition to its excellent torque and eco-friendly attributes, perhaps the best thing about the 78-passenger Bluebird All American with a 120-mile range is that the district will acquire the bus at zero cost. That’s because it is being entirely funded by a state grant and contributions from its local and regional electric providers. WGSD expects to receive its new bus — the first electric bus in Grand County — in August, just in time for use on daily routes for the 2020-2021 school year.

“We really appreciate everyone’s help on this project,” said WGSD Superintendent Darrin Peppard, “especially Mountain Parks Electric, for encouraging us to apply for the state grant and for providing additional financial support.”

In late December, the Colorado’s Regional Air Quality announced its grant award of more than $250,000 to West Grand School District. The grant was open to all public, private and nonprofit fleets statewide, earmarked specifically for the replacement of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, including buses. RAQC awarded a total of 20 grants in this cycle.

The remaining funds needed to purchase WGSD’s school bus came Mountain Parks Electric a not-for-profit electric cooperative headquartered in Granby, Colorado, which contributed a portion of its members’ unclaimed patronage capital from years past, and from Tri-State Generation and Transmission, MPE’s power provider. “We are thrilled to see the school district go electric,” said Mountain Parks Electric General Manager Mark Johnston. “Mountain Parks Electric’s power supply is becoming increasingly renewable. And one of the best ways to put that renewable energy to work is to replace fossil fuels with electric alternatives, like this school bus.”

MORE INFO on Bluebird electric buses: https://www.blue-bird.com/electric.

CREA: 75 Years of Representing Colorado’s Electric Co-ops

By Kylee Coleman

Most Coloradans don’t know life without electricity ready and available when they need it — and at the flip of a switch. Yet in relatively recent history, simple electric lighting and service were not part of life in many rural areas.

“The first 50 years of my life, I lived without electricity,” Paul Huntly said. A board director at Buena Vista-based Sangre de Cristo Electric Association from 1948 to 1977, Huntly once reflected about his experience growing up on an isolated 10,000-acre ranch in rural Colorado. In the February 1977 issue of Colorado Country Life, he said, “What was life like without electricity? [We were] walking through the snow to an outdoor toilet, carrying water from a well, using a coal oil lamp. We took our baths in a washtub in the kitchen, after heating the water on the cookstove.”

Longtime Hugo-based K.C. Electric Association board member Bob Bledsoe also remembers when electricity came to his family’s ranch in eastern Colorado when he was 4 or 5 years old. His dad took him out to watch neighbors bring line in and set the power poles by hand.

“Son, take a good look at what you see right now,” his dad said to him, “because this is really going to change our country.” And it did. Neighbors helped neighbors in their collective effort to bring electricity to Colorado’s rural areas starting in 1936. Communities had solid plans based on the new Rural Electrification Act and people collected signatures and $5 fees to form local electric co-ops.

To work together on shared goals, these new, small, local electric co-ops banded together in 1945 to create what was then called the Colorado State Association of Cooperatives. This month, the Colorado Rural Electric Association celebrates its 75th anniversary as that trade association for Colorado’s 22 electric co-ops and power supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Few Colorado rural electric cooperative founders are still living these days, but their original efforts and legacy still power our lives. That’s why the collective cooperative story deserves telling — and retelling.

Statewide support
At its inception, CREA primarily worked on advancing legislative issues and political agendas promoting the rural electrification movement both locally and nationally.

As needs arose, CREA’s focus expanded to indirectly support member co-ops’ consumer-members. Your co-op’s goal is to provide safe, reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electricity to your community and home. CREA is a tool that co-ops rely on to make that possible. Simply put, CREA has a statewide perspective and a holistic approach to serving co-ops so your community co-op can serve you better.

CREA continues the much needed work on shared co-op issues at the state Capitol as well as working on shared goals in other areas.

Safety and training
A commitment to keep your co-op and its employees safe has always been at the forefront of CREA’s efforts. Since its formation, job training and safety has been a valued service offered by CREA. From providing training programs to organization-wide safety assessments, classes and seminars for all 22 co-ops across the state, the four-person safety team reaches far and wide. The safety team also facilitates mutual aid efforts. When the power goes out in a community or town due to a major weather event, there are 21 other Colorado co-ops that can assist with getting the power back on.

Education is an important spoke of the CREA wheel, and it helps perpetuate industry best practices. Through CREA’s education services, co-op staff and board members can advance their learning and leadership. A range of courses are available for directors, mechanics, accountants, member service managers and human resource specialists, as well as other co-op employees.

Delegates of the 2019 Colorado Youth Camp.

Delegates of the 1973 Colorado Youth Camp.

CREA helps your co-op to support future leaders.

For 25 years, CREA has promoted and organized Colorado co-op high schoolers’ annual Washington D.C. Youth Tour. A great opportunity for the students who are selected to go, the tour allows Colorado teens to meet with nearly 1,900 students from across the country to learn about cooperatives, the legislative process and sightseeing. A weeklong summer Leadership Camp in Steamboat Springs, offered since the 1970s, also gives teens a unique opportunity to learn about the co-op model, develop leadership skills and simply have fun.

Along with these programs, CREA assists local co-ops with communication services and telling the cooperative story. Colorado Country Life, (which was originally published under the name Colorado Rural Electric News and, later, Rocky Mountain Rural Life) is now in its 67th year of production.

This magazine is the most accessible and efficient way for your co-op to keep you informed. Readers get a little bit of everything: local co-op news and business, community events, local scholarship opportunities and relevant safety issues. Consumer-members also enjoy stories on interesting Colorado people, places, discoveries, recipes, political issues and gardening.

Serving Colorado communities and beyond
Making space for local and international philanthropic efforts has evolved for CREA over the last 75 years. For eight years, Colorado’s electric cooperatives have sponsored a team in the Pedal the Plains bike tour across the eastern plains. The team raises money for Energy Outreach Colorado, a nonprofit organization that helps people with electric bills and energy efficiency updates in homes across Colorado.

In 2018 and 2019, CREA partnered with co-ops from Oklahoma to travel to Guatemala where crews of volunteer linemen electrified small, remote villages. Giving power to people who have never had it before is a proud and important moment for both the linemen and the co-ops they represent.

Still going strong
Since day one of modern rural electrification, the co-op industry evolved remarkably fast. New technologies and generation sources are developed nearly every day and electric service is not going away. Neither is the co-op model. As Bledsoe says, “CREA, in its history, made a profound effect on the infrastructure in Colorado and the people who are served by it. CREA should be a community effort to make sure all the co-ops have affordable and reliable electricity.” And that, it is.

Although the statewide trade association has changed over the past 75 years to meet modern cooperative needs, one thing remains the same: CREA continues to fight for co-op issues and encourage a new generation of people to connect with their cooperatives. CREA looks forward to many more years of representing and serving co-ops and consumer-members across the state.

Kylee Coleman is the editorial assistant at Colorado Country Life magazine. She writes about innovations at Colorado’s electric cooperatives and enjoyed sifting through print archives researching CREA’s history.

San Miguel Power Offers Totally Green Option

An increasing number of San Miguel Power Association’s consumer-members in southwestern Colorado have expressed a desire to see their electricity generated from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and hydropower. This has led to a co-op campaign called Totally Green.

The program allows members to offset their electricity use with renewable energy by setting up a small monthly automatic investment. It’s the Ridgway co-op’s simplest way for its consumer-members to use electricity from 100% renewable sources.

Since the program launched in July 2019, more than 120 members have subscribed with the 1-cent per kilowatt-hour bill adjustment. Among subscribers that can identify as Totally Green are the Telluride/Mountain Village Gondola, Telluride Sports, Clark’s Market, Mountain Chill Radio, San Miguel County and San Miguel Power Association.

Holy Cross Energy Builds New Solar Sites

Glenwood Springs-based electric cooperative Holy Cross Energy celebrated two new solar arrays at its headquarters with a ribbon cutting ceremony in January.

The two arrays will help the co-op offset the energy use and carbon emissions associated with its office operations. Together, the solar arrays offset about 44% of current electricity consumption on HCE’s Glenwood Springs campus.

One of the solar arrays is innovative in that the 554 solar panels are not permanently affixed to the ground. The unique solar panel racking system, made by Powerfield, can be disassembled and redeployed in a different location using the same parts and materials.

The second solar array installed is a traditional rooftop design. The 268 panels operate at a higher wattage than previous panels, making them more efficient overall.

The cooperative is also slated to complete a third solar array later this year.

Dolores Canyon Solar has Project Developer

Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the power supplier to 18 of Colorado’s 22 electric co-ops, recently announced that it contracted with juwi Solar, Inc., for the Dolores Canyon solar energy project in southwest Colorado.

The 110-megawatt site in Empire Electric Association’s service territory is set to come online in the fourth quarter of 2023 and will meet the electricity needs of 32,000 households.

This site will contribute to Tri-State’s Responsible Energy Plan with a cleaner energy portfolio and support Tri-State’s goal of providing reliable service with stable wholesale rates. The power supplier is adding 1 gigawatt of additional utility-scale renewable wind and solar by 2024.