PVREA Middle-Mile Fiber Internet

Poudre Valley REA broadband power infrastructure will be seeing an increase in its resiliency soon. Larimer County has received a $995,429 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to help develop community-owned middle-mile fiber to the towns of Wellington and Masonville. Additionally, the county’s general fund will be matching the grant. While Larimer County is generally well-connected, this grant will be pivotal in providing improved access to unserved and underserved rural residents who have struggled with inadequate broadband infrastructure and unreliable service.

The middle-mile fiber project will include the construction of 107,168 feet of above-ground fiber on Poudre Valley REA poles, and will interconnect with existing community-owned middle-mile fiber. Wellington can expect to see improved connection both in town and in more rural areas, and this new fiber will connect with Fort Collins-based broadband service Connexion. The Masonville route will focus on improving connectivity along Larimer County Road 27 between U.S. Highway 34 and Masonville, which will create opportunity for last-mile expansion projects in collaboration with Loveland Pulse, Loveland’s fiber-optic internet provider.

The partnership between Connexion, Larimer County, and Loveland Pulse is focused on improving the community and providing excellent customer service, with Chad Crager, Connexion Broadband executive director stating “We believe that a great internet experience is the foundation for the future of innovation and collaboration in this region.” Each fiber service will own and be responsible for construction, maintenance, and operation of the new middle-mile project. Not only will this grant make improved connectivity possible for many homes, it also will help the community compete for future grants to upgrade infrastructure for years to come.

Holy Cross Energy Solar Array and Battery Storage Collaboration Project

Holy Cross Energy announced the completion of its new solar array and battery storage project at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus in Glenwood Springs. This project is a collaboration between Holy Cross Energy, Colorado Mountain College, Ameresco, Sunsense and Friends. The utility-scale solar and storage project is a step towards Holy Cross Energy’s goal of producing 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030, as well as Colorado Mountain College’s intention to be entirely carbon neutral by 2050.

The system includes 13,500 solar panels located at the campus, which provide 4.5 MW of solar power, and 68 battery stacks that provide 5MW/15MWh of battery energy storage. Most of the solar panels are installed using single-axis tracking, which uses one axis of rotation and takes advantage of the different terrain and space constraints of the site. The 68 battery stacks are stored in four on-site containers, each of which also contains an HVAC system to control temperature and humidity. Fire suppression measures are in place for further safety. The batteries will be used to store energy, discharging it during peak demand hours to reduce overall energy costs and save money for Holy Cross Energy members.

Sam Whelan, Holy Cross Energy’s Vice President of Power Supply states “The HCE/CMC solar plus storage project is a great example of a win-win renewable project. Not only does the project assist both HCE and CMC toward their renewable and carbon goals, but the battery also provides us with the flexibility to operate an increasingly renewable portfolio. To top it all off, we’re able to do this in a financially responsible way that saves money for all our members.”The annual offset of greenhouse gas emissions from this project is 6,853 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or the same as removing 1,481 passenger vehicles from the road or saving 7,551,051 pounds of coal every year. Three CMC campuses, including Vail Valley, Aspen, and Spring Valley, will receive power from this new installation.

Solar panels on roof

Behind The Meter: How Does At-Home Energy Generation Impact the Grid?

By Kent Singer, CREA Executive Director

Since the inception of the Colorado electric co-op program in the 1930s, the traditional path for delivering electricity to co-op members has largely remained the same: Power is generated at a central station power plant, transmitted across high voltage transmission lines, and finally distributed over a local system to end-use customers at their homes and businesses. While the source of the “central station” power varies from state to state, the basic system of generation, transmission and distribution (G,T&D) of electricity has looked the same for decades.

This “G,T&D” model will remain the path for most of the electricity consumed by Colorado’s electric co-op members for years to come; however, more and more co-op members are opting to generate electricity at their premises. They do this by using solar panels on their rooftops or other sources of power that are “behind the meter.” And, as is the case for most renewable energy generation, it’s not always available and fluctuates depending on weather conditions. With that in mind, there are two scenarios at play for a co-op member’s on-premise system: Excess generation and inadequate generation.

If a co-op member’s residential rooftop solar system produces more electricity than they consume, Colorado’s electric co-ops have agreed to — and state law requires them to — “net meter” the energy the co-op receives from member-owned solar arrays. Net metering simply means that when excess electricity is exported to the grid, the co-op member receives kilowatt-hour credits valued at the retail rate. A member of a Colorado electric co-op can reduce the amount of electricity they purchase from the co-op since the solar panels on their rooftops are producing at least some, if not all, of the power they require for their home or business. In this scenario, the co-op member who is generating excess electricity benefits from their use of the co-op distribution system to manage and credit their excess solar energy production.

Unless they are completely off the grid and are generating all the electricity they need, co-op members with rooftop solar systems must still be connected to the co-op’s distribution infrastructure. This ensures the delivery of electricity to their home or business whenever it is required — for example, during a string of cloudy days when their solar panels don’t generate adequate electricity. Electric co-ops have a legal obligation to maintain adequate facilities in order to provide reliable electric service to their members.

It’s true that the need for a co-op to purchase power from a wholesale supplier is decreased when its members generate their own electricity. However, the co-op is still responsible for maintaining a robust distribution system that will serve all the co-op’s members.

This raises an important question for Colorado’s electric co-ops (and other electric utilities): If an electric co-op member benefits from the poles and wires to provide electricity when the rooftop solar panels aren’t sufficient, but that member no longer buys any or as much power from the co-op, should that member be required to pay for the continuing maintenance and replacement costs of those facilities?

As more and more co-op members install solar arrays, the way that co-ops compensate their members for consumer-sited generation may need to be reexamined. With the increase in residential solar systems, co-ops receive less revenue from energy sales, but they continue to have expenses related to maintaining the distribution grid. Co-ops may also need to make new infrastructure investments to enable the storage of excess solar production to help meet peak demands for electricity in the afternoon.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether any changes need to be made to the existing net metering rules from both the perspective of solar installers and electric utilities. As not-for-profit utilities, co-ops aren’t incentivized to make a profit, but they still must meet their payrolls, run their trucks, and invest in system maintenance and improvements. These costs are shared among all co-op members.

Colorado’s electric co-ops go to great lengths to treat all of their members fairly and equitably, and they will continue to do so as they integrate more behind-the-meter, customer-sited renewable energy resources.


Kent Singer is the executive director of CREA and offers a statewide perspective on issues affecting electric cooperatives. CREA is the trade association for 21 Colorado electric distribution co-ops and one power supply co-op

PVREA Offers EV Charging Pilot Program

Poudre Valley REA partnered with FlexCharging to create an innovative pilot program that offers members an easy way to save on their electric bills. FlexCharging, a leader in EV charging technology, released EVision in June. This cloud-based EV grid integration and demand response software allows electric cooperatives and utilities to launch managed charging programs. Poudre Valley REA members who charge their EVs at home will receive bill credits for charging during reward charging times, between midnight and 3 p.m. Incentives include 2 cents off electric bills per kWh used to charge the EV, as well as a one-time sign-up bonus of $50 upon successful enrollment in the program. The average EV owner, who drives 30-40 miles per day, will save an average of $120 annually.

“At PVREA, we need a managed EV charging program to meet the needs of both our electric grid and the increasing number of EV owners in our area,” Tim Ellis, PVREA energy resources director said.  “A viable, cost-effective, and user-friendly telematics solution supporting the most available EVs allows us to maximize the positive impact managed EVs can have on our grid. We’re excited to partner with FlexCharging on a new pilot program, DrivEV, that we hope can result in a safer, more reliable, and more affordable supply of power for all our members.”

DrivEV will help reduce charging costs for EV owners, decrease energy loads on PVREA, and lower carbon emissions. A recent study showed that the share of electric cars in total sales has more than tripled since 2020, from about 4% in 2020 to 14% in 2022. Electric car sales exceeded 10 million in 2022. As more people make the move to EV vehicles, innovative programs such as PVREA’s DrivEV will help meet demand for growing EV ownership, funding for charging infrastructure, and rapidly evolving regulations to move to EVs. To learn more about PVREA’s pilot program, please click here.

Holy Cross Energy Completes First Phase in Broadband Infrastructure Project

Holy Cross Energy announced that Phase I of their broadband infrastructure project in the Roaring Fork Valley is complete. The three-phase project brings “middle mile” broadband infrastructure to several communities in both the Roaring Fork Valley as well as the Eagle River Valley. Middle mile infrastructure is, according to the Colorado Broadband Office, “The telecommunication network of robust, high-speed fiber or fixed wireless that brings broadband close enough to a residence or business so an internet service provider may provide internet access. Middle mile connects to the global internet backbone.” This improved infrastructure plan also serves to diagnose outages, dispatch energy resources in real-time, and increase reliability between Holy Cross Energy data centers in an emergency.

Phase I of the project improves fiber connectivity over a 41-mile stretch between Glenwood Springs and Aspen. Construction of Phase II begins later this summer, connecting Avon and Gypsum, and Phase III will connect the first two phases with a link over Cottonwood Pass. Holy Cross Energy’s fiber and broadband director, Manuel Gomez, states “HCE’s primary goal is to increase reliability and to dispatch energy resources in real-time. We are also excited to utilize our fiber where available to support our member and communities by providing access to a strong fiber network.”

The decision to pursue middle mile projects was made by the HCE board of directors to support systems operations and increase connectivity to the community. Holy Cross Energy will not provide retail internet services, but instead has partnered with both public and private entities to increase fiber infrastructure by subleasing the fiber network to regional internet providers. As of today, the only lease on HCE’s fiber infrastructure is through a partnership with the Northwest Colorado Council of Government, which provides middle mile broadband services to Pitkin County, the City of Aspen, the Town of Basalt, and the Town of Snowmass Village.

MCREA Uses VR Technology as Part of Safety Program

An innovative use of technology is giving Coloradans on the eastern plains invaluable and unique experiences to learn how to properly approach electrical safety. Morgan County REA now includes virtual reality headset technology as a part of its safety training program. Wearing a VR headset allows a user to experience virtual simulations that are designed to create an immersive environment. The virtual experience elicits the same stress response as some real-life situations, so if the individual is faced with the same scenario in real life, they are prepared and know how to handle the situation safely.

One of the scenarios the Fort Morgan-based electric co-op offers in their VR safety training is downed power line safety training. The simulation puts the user at the scene of an accident where a vehicle hits a power pole and the power line has fallen on the car. The user learns what steps to take to safely remove themselves from this dangerous situation. Another training simulation available through the VR headsets includes farm hazards. Users can participate in a variety of tasks on a farm and the VR experience educates them about how to handle unexpected situations. In April, personnel from the Southwest Washington County Fire Protection District also implemented the use of MCREA’s VR headsets as part of their staff training program for power line safety.

One of the benefits of utilizing VR technology as a safety training tool is the high retention rate. Because individuals have already mentally experienced the scenario, it is easier to recall important information. A study by the Masie Report shows that VR simulations have a retention rate of 75%, significantly higher than the 10% retention rate from reading and the 5% from listening to lectures. A high retention rate is crucial in safety training, when keeping individuals from harm is the top priority. Hands-on experience is the best education, and the addition of this interactive tool will contribute to a more comprehensive safety program moving forward. The implementation of VR technology at MCREA will be beneficial for the co-op and its members. For more information, visit mcrea.org.

Colorado’s electric cooperatives are committed to maintaining reliability and affordable electricity across the state. Click here for more examples of how we are maintaining reliability and affordable electricity

GCEA Breaks Ground on New Hydroelectric Project

GCEA broke ground for the development of the Taylor River Hydropower plant at the base of the Taylor Park Dam on May 31. The hydropower facility’s nameplate capacity is 500 kilowatts, placing it within the “small hydro” scale. Small hydro powers local communities and contributes to a regional grid. According to GCEA Strategy Execution Specialist Matt Feier, this project could result in the production of 3.9 million kilowatt-hours each year, which is about the same amount of energy as 2,500-kilowatt fixed-tilt solar arrays. The plant will generate enough electricity to power approximately 475 GCEA-served homes every year. GCEA has been working to diversify its supply portfolio by adding environmentally friendly, sustainable resources that are in accordance with the terms and conditions with its wholesale power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. All energy generated at this hydroelectric facility will be distributed to members of GCEA members, making this an exciting new development for the community.

GCEA partnered with the Uncompaghre Valley Water Users Association to bring this project to life, a venture that has been several years in the making. GCEA and UVWUA signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2020 to form a jointly owned entity called Taylor River Hydro LLC to develop, own, and operate the plant. The Taylor Park Dam was originally built to accommodate a hydroelectric generation facility when it was constructed in 1937, though one has never been implemented until now. The dam is owned by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and is operated by the UVWUA; maintenance and operation responsibilities will be handled by GCEA. The hydroelectric facility is expected to operate at full capacity 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year, not including occasional downtime for maintenance and repairs. The Taylor River Hydropower project was originally slated to be finished in late 2023, but now has an expected completion date of mid-February 2024.

Colorado’s electric cooperatives are committed to maintaining reliability and affordable electricity across the state. Click here for more examples of how we are maintaining reliability and affordable electricity


Mesa Hotline School: Powering a Field of Dreams

By Amy Higgins, Photography by Joshua Scott Smith –

On May 1, lineworkers from across America gathered in Grand Junction at Mesa Hotline School to strengthen their skills and network with industry professionals.

This was the first of two weeklong training sessions at the esteemed electrical lineworker school and where its latest asset was introduced: a new 26-acre field outfitted with a legion of power poles, underground and above-ground lines, and all the necessary components to create a powerful learning experience.

The Aerial Gloving, Hot Tension Stringing and Hot Sticking II classes are taught at the new 26-acre field at Mesa Hotline School in Grand Junction.

Mesa Hotline School personnel put in countless hours amending the field design plans before coming up with a blueprint of the finished product.

“We built a complete new field between multiple companies,” said Mesa Hotline School Board Assistant Secretary/Treasurer and Holy Cross Energy Glenwood Line Operation Manager James Ray. Several businesses generously donated equipment and manpower to ready the field for the students’ arrival. Essentially, a forest of power poles readied for climbing, testing and inspecting was firmly planted as the centerpiece of this massive real estate.

“I was delighted to see so much of it completed in a short period of time after we began construction,” said Holy Cross Energy President and CEO Bryan Hannegan. “Everyone appreciated the thoughtful and realistic design of the field, which made class instruction efficient and effective.”


Founded in 1966, Mesa Hotline School is a highly accredited lineworker school led by industry experts who teach lineworkers of all aptitudes ways to sharpen their skills and learn the more difficult tasks involved their craft.

Approximately 80 top-notch linework experts from CREA, America’s electric cooperatives and other energy entities donated their time and expertise during the two weeklong programs, and without financial incentive. These partnerships personify the cooperative principle “Cooperation Among Cooperatives,” a characteristic that noticeably branches beyond the cooperative network and toward the entire linework profession.


City of San Marco linemen AJ Longoria and Sammy Clark teach students how to change out a dead end insulator during the Hot Sticking I class.

“That’s really how our trade works,” explained David Williams, Mesa Hotline School Board President and Operations Superintendent at Mountain View Electric Association’s Limon office. “We depend on each other to bring [students] to the same level that the other guys got to; you’re getting the best of what those companies have to offer.” Students at Mesa Hotline School can register for hot sticking, aerial gloving, hot tension stringing, installations, switching and troubleshooting, or cable testing and fault locating courses. As they learn new techniques, a field safety committee ensures students are employing best practices to secure their wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. The course involves two days of in-class instruction, two days in the field, and a banquet where students are lauded for their hard work.


Erik Dahl teaches digger derrick best practices in the classroom portion of hotline school.

“That’s the biggest thing about hotline school: the relationships that you’re able to afford,” CREA Job Training and Safety Instructor Curt Graham said. “You always meet new people and learn different ways of doing things, so the network of people and things that you can put together over there is just beyond — it’s just incomprehensible — what you can do.”

While the new field currently offers immense amenities for its students, transmission and an additional substation are in the works to enrich the site.

“I think by the time we’re done it’ll probably be, if not the best, one of the best hotline schools in the nation,” Ray said.


This year, around 600 lineworkers from consumer-owned and publicly-traded utilities and their contractors attended Mesa Hotline School. They advanced their skills learning new techniques and putting those skills into action, such as handling, maneuvering and working on energized conductors; stringing and pulling in new conductor to retire old conductor; troubleshooting cables and circuits; and learning how to locate an underground fault with different types of equipment.

“Nothing is live in the training. We simulate it but we treat it and talk about it just as if it was [energized],” Williams explained.


Mesa Hotline School Board President David Williams inspects the transformer training station.

America’s electric cooperatives know it takes grit to commit to the electrical linework profession and are keenly aware of the sacrifices that come with the job. “If the weather’s ugly and there’s lightning in the air and snow blowing sideways at 50 miles an hour, we’re out there, and I think it does take a special someone to want to do that,” Williams said.

Electrical lineworkers are in demand and the compensation it provides is substantial and continues to increase as their skills grow.

Mesa Hotline School, its partner companies and various vendors offer tuition assistance for lineworker training. There are approximately 10 $1,500 student scholarships and a $3,000 Mike Dean Memorial post-graduate scholarship. People who want to enter the lineworker profession can apply for these scholarships to attend any accredited lineworker program.

Whether it’s intimidation, uncertainty or time constraints, many people miss out on these financing opportunities simply because they don’t apply. “It always surprises me how few applicants we really get,” Williams said. “I would think we would get hundreds, but we don’t.”

Colorado’s electric cooperatives understand the significance of education and desire lineworkers who commit to furthering their skills and staying on top of the latest techniques and practices throughout their career.

“To me, that is the biggest thing that hotline school is about,” Graham shared. “You can always learn something new no matter how long you’ve been in this business.”

Amy Higgins is a freelance writer who has reported on electric industry topics for more than a decade.

Empire Electric Announces New Construction Estimator Tool

Cortez-based Empire Electric Association recently revealed its new construction estimator tool to help streamline estimates as demand for new services in the area expands. This tool promises to improve work processes and lower operation costs that will be passed down to its consumers with faster service and more affordable rates.

EEA completed 216 new services in 2022, almost double the 10-year average of 114, and an increase of 73% from the latest three-year average. The demand for new services as well as normal maintenance and upgrade activity to maintain reliability has increased its engineering department’s workload.

In the past, EEA provided one free estimate for a member looking to add a new electric service. This was done by an engineering technician and typically involved travel to the site. In many cases, after receiving the estimate, the member did not proceed with the project. Resources spent estimating projects never built and the increasing demand for new services made the process a great candidate for improvement.

At the end of March 2023, EEA launched a new construction estimator tool. This tool allows members or their electricians to easily get a quote for providing service at a new location. The estimator tool is for single-phase services that will not need more than 75 kilovolt amperes (kVA) of capacity. Three-phase services or services requiring greater than 75 kVA of capacity are urged to still contact the EEA engineering department for an estimate.

The required input for the online tool is:
• The type of service the project will originate from: overhead, underground, or overhead to underground.
• The distance in feet from the existing EEA distribution system to the proposed meter location.
• The service capacity required in kVA. Capacity is dictated by electrical and building codes and the number and type of electric equipment or appliances at the new service.

Once these three values are entered, the tool will provide a cost estimate to build the new service. If the input values are correct, this will be the price the member will pay. If the estimate meets the member’s budget and they want to proceed, they will provide EEA with a load data sheet outlining the electric equipment and appliances that will be at the new service, a site plan showing site details and the proposed meter location, and an engineering deposit of $500 for residential services and $600 for commercial.

When EEA receives the required documentation and deposit, an engineering technician will meet with the member or their representative at the site to verify the plans and model input. Any necessary changes to the model input will be made at that time, and the formal project cost will be presented. If the member wishes to proceed at that time, they will pay the formal estimate minus the engineering deposit, and the service will be designed and then placed on the construction schedule. If the member does not wish to proceed, they will be refunded the deposit less costs incurred by EEA in providing the formal estimate.

The new construction estimator tool gives members an estimate to provide electric service to a property and allows them to evaluate different scenarios quickly and easily. It will also allow EEA to design and build services when members are ready to proceed, and at the same time reduce EEA costs to help keep all members’ rates affordable.

For more information, visit eea.coop/residential-and-commercial-new-construction-estimator-tool.