Cooperation Among Cooperatives Addresses Wildfire Mitigation

Seeking solutions to be proactive about wildfire prevention and mitigation strategies, San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative looked at Brighton-based United Power’s previous fire mitigation work. The electric co-op based in Monte Vista replaced three-phase line and 34 poles in parts of its service area with Hendrix Aerial Cable. United Power switched its power line to Hendrix Cable in its mountainous Coal Creek Canyon service area in September 2020 and invited SLVREC to review its projects.

Hendrix cable is an insulated conductor and provides a high level of protection in the event that a tree falls onto and makes contact with a power line. With the stronger, covered cable, the risk of wildfire caused by electrical equipment is drastically reduced. Hendrix cable also withstands severe weather events, helping prevent outages if the line is struck by a tree.

This innovative use of collaboration and infrastructure materials offer the benefits of wildfire prevention and improved reliability for co-op consumer-members. And it’s another example of an important cooperative principle at work: cooperation among cooperatives.

Southern Colorado Co-op Launches New EV Station

Durango-based electric cooperative, La Plata Electric Association, partnered with Purgatory Resort to install a new EV fast-charging station for public use. This new station is part of the Colorado Energy Office’s EV fast-charging corridor project and completes the charging corridor that runs through LPEA’s service territory.

To launch the station, LPEA and Purgatory Resort hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, September 1.

“We are thrilled to have completed our portion of the statewide EV fast-charging corridor, which will allow EV drivers to traverse Colorado, from corner to corner, without range anxiety,” LPEA CEO Jessica Matlock said in a news release.

Installed with funds from Colorado Energy Office and LPEA, the station is open 24 hours per day and costs 30 cents per kilowatt hour. An idle fee of 30 cents per minute is also charged when a vehicle is left plugged in longer than 10 minutes after charging is complete. Unlike standard level 2 EV chargers, which take 3 to 8 hours for a full charge, level 3 DC fast chargers take less than 30 minutes.

Don’t Miss CREA’s Energy Innovations Summit

More than two dozen energy experts will discuss the latest developments in today’s dynamic energy industry during the Monday, October 11, CREA Energy Innovations Summit.

There is still time to register for the always-interesting event at the Grand Hyatt Denver Hotel in downtown Denver. The opening panel will include Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association CEO Duane Highley and Xcel Energy Colorado President Alice Jackson discussing their vision for the future. Morning breakout sessions will look at advancements in energy storage, hydrogen as a fuel of the future, meeting utility customer needs and carbon capture and storage.

Lunch speaker Tim Reeser of Lightning eMotors will review his company’s work electrifying buses, vans and other medium- to heavy-duty vehicles.

Afternoon breakout sessions will discuss the impacts of last February’s deep freeze, integrating distributed energy resources, beneficial electrification and reducing methane emissions.

Click here to register.

Colorado Co-op Works to Bring EVs to Low-Income Rural Areas

San Isabel Electric, headquartered in Pueblo West, joined the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and 16 other electric cooperatives to apply for $8 million in federal grants to bring electric vehicles to low-income rural communities.

Most of the proposed co-op projects would install public EV charging stations at key locations such as low-income apartment complexes, medical facilities, parks and highway corridors, said Brian Sloboda, NRECA’s director of consumer solutions.

“In some cases, these would be the first public chargers that anyone in the community has ever seen,” he said.

The DOE will fund 50% of the cost of the projects, leaving co-ops and any community partners to pay the rest. The agency will announce a maximum of five winners at the end of the highly competitive process in October. The co-ops are competing as one unit, rather than as individual businesses, with NRECA as the project leader.

“I don’t think you can find another team that represents such a diverse group of utilities, projects and communities and that meets the ambitious goals of the Department of Energy,” Sloboda said.
Despite increasing interest in EV charging by for-profit companies, “few companies are building this infrastructure and trying to grow EVs in the rural areas except these non-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives,” he said.

“It’s a long-haul investment that’s not going to pay off overnight,” Sloboda said. “This is where we need the leadership from the DOE in recognizing the needs of these underserved rural communities. Without co-ops working with the DOE, we probably won’t see rapid progress.”

New Substation to Support Growth in Franktown

CORE Electric Cooperative (formally Intermountain Rural Electric Association) is building a new substation in Franktown to serve load growth between its existing Bayou and Castle Rock substations.

The new 115-kilovolt to 12.5-kilovolt facility will provide reliable power to the area and help relieve the co-op’s Bayou and Castle Rock substations. The project started in mid-May and the co-op anticipates construction will be completed by December. The substation is expected to be in operation by February 2022.

The Sedalia-based electric cooperative serves over 160,000 consumer-members across its 5,000-square mile service territory. In addition to this new substation, the co-op plans to build 12 feeders over the next three to five years as additional load is added to the system.

Co-op Receives Grant for Internet Infrastructure

In mid-August, Delta-Montrose Electric Association in Montrose was awarded more than $10.5 million in grants to help expand its broadband network to remote, rural communities within Montrose and Delta counties. The funds come from the USDA’s Rural Utility Services Reconnect program. In response to the passing of the bill and the grant award to DMEA, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said the electric co-op and its internet subsidiary, Elevate Internet, set the standard for quality broadband in rural communities.

Coming to the area is about 261 miles of new mainline fiber connecting 2,410 households, three educational facilities, 89 businesses and 115 farms. The grant funds make it possible for DMEA and Elevate Internet to provide symmetrical gigabit speeds to another 6,877 people across its rural service territory.

The network DMEA’s Elevate will construct is a 100% fiber optic network. This is a future-proof network that will diminish the digital divide for homes and businesses for 50 years or more.

DMEA Chief Technology Officer Kent Blackwell said in a recent press release, “This is a great day for DMEA and its members. With these grant funds, a huge area for our membership now has light at the end of the tunnel, bringing with it enormous opportunities for our rural farming communities. These areas can now look forward to having a digital opportunity that has, until now, typically only been available to urban communities.

“Elevate is truly focused on its membership, we are driven every day to find sources of funding to make these network extensions happen in financially responsible ways. It is not an easy task, but unlike our competitors that are driven by profits and margins, Elevate is truly driven by customer satisfaction. So to have an announcement from the USDA like this is 10 million reasons to be happy for our members,” Blackwell said.

Rural residents across the area are now one step closer to a modern internet connection and increased access to online education and telework.

New Technology Used to Reduce Fire Risk

San Miguel Power Association is taking time during the exceptional drought conditions the West is experiencing to explore and incorporate innovative solutions to prevent wildland fires in its service territory.

Like any electric co-op does in high-risk fire areas, SMPA transports electricity through fire zones that are made up of dry, wooded terrain. There is the risk that power lines could spark a fire. In proactive measures, the Nucla-based co-op’s engineers and mapping technicians are building fire map layers to stage a plan for the deployment of “Trip Saver” devices throughout its grid.

The Trip Saver replaces standard fuses on power lines and uses a vacuum interrupter that prevents sparks or heated materials from being discharged. This helps to reduce the chance of a wildfire caused by co-op infrastructure and equipment.

Another added benefit of a Trip Saver is that power outages don’t last very long. After the fault is cleared (80% resolve on their own), the device is able to reclose the circuit without requiring a service crew to drive to the outage location and replace the fuse.

Morgan County REA Announces Home EV Charger Rebate

Morgan County REA was excited to announce that it recently issued its first rebate for an EV Level 2 home charger installed in its service territory. An MCREA consumer-member purchased a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and asked the Fort Morgan-based electric cooperative to assist with finding home charging solutions.

MCREA offers rebates of 50% of the charging equipment cost, up to $250 to help offset expenses when its consumer-members install home charging equipment.

Installing a Level 2 charger at home can often provide a full charge by plugging in the EV overnight, which helps EV drivers avoid costlier Level 3 fast charging station fees.

Holy Cross Energy Announces Hydro Project

In a June 23 press release, electric cooperative Holy Cross Energy announced a new power purchase agreement with Grand Valley Hydro, LLC. The project is owned by Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and Grand Valley Water Users Association and will make up nearly 2% of HCE’s annual energy requirements.

The Glenwood Springs-based co-op will receive 22,380 megawatt hours of energy each year from this PPA. This is enough energy to power up to 1,700 average-sized homes per year, according to HCE’s Power Supply Manager Sam Whelan.

This PPA is HCE’s next step in its 100×30 goal to provide its consumers with 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030.

United Power Announces New EV Charging Station

Brighton-based electric co-op United Power recently announced its second electric vehicle charging station is now open and available for public use. Located at the Market Street Mart in Keenesburg, the 63.5 kW DC fast charger fills a gap for rural electric vehicle owner and drivers between Brighton and Fort Morgan. This EV charging station was installed with help from a grant from Charge Ahead Colorado, a program from the Colorado Energy Office.