Telluride Solar Garden Begins Production

San Miguel Power Association added a third community solar array to its distribution grid. The 250-kilowatt facility is a subscription-based community solar project, the first of its kind in Telluride. Erdman Energy partnered with the Nucla-based electric cooperative to provide SMPA consumer-members the opportunity to subscribe to solar energy without building or maintaining a system themselves on their own property.

Subscribers to the solar garden will see a credit on their power bill equal to their portion (up to 25 kW) of the array’s energy production each month. The recent announcement of Tri-State Generation and Transmission’s Responsible Energy Plan will allow the co-op to add additional community solar gardens in the future. SMPA is currently making plans to begin more solar developments this year. Keep reading the Energy Innovations Newsletter for updates on future solar projects in co-op service territory.

Mountain Parks Electric Rebates Nearly $40,000 for Local Renewables in 2019

In 2019, Granby-based electric cooperative Mountain Parks Electric rebated more than $38,000 to 19 consumer-members who installed local solar projects. The rebates were funded by voluntary contributions to MPE’s Green Power Program.

“Our local power supply keeps getting greener,” said MPE General Manager Mark Johnston. “Part of it is the generation we purchase from local solar and wind projects, which we rebate through our Green Power Program.”

More than 1,200 MPE consumer-members support the innovative Green Power program. MPE earmarks monthly contributions (as little as $1 a month) for local residential and small commercial renewable energy rebates. Since 2011, MPE has rebated more than $200,000 toward local renewable installations.

For more information about the Green Power program history and stats through the years, visit mpei.com/green-power-program-history-stats.

Southwestern Colorado Co-op Supports Renewables

Durango-based electric cooperative La Plata Electric Association recently awarded three grants to nonprofit organizations in its service territory. Money from the Renewable Generation Funds Grant program totaled $47,000 to support the nonprofits’ innovative efforts to pursue renewable energy generation.

Volunteers of America was awarded $16,000 to support a solar installation at its new senior housing facility currently under construction. The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership in Pagosa Springs was awarded $13,000 to support a solar installation to generate electricity at its site. And the Unitarian Universalists Fellowship was awarded $18,000 to support a solar installation at its facility.

These innovative projects were selected based on visibility to the local community and the potential to blend renewable technologies with educational elements and community engagement.

The grant money comes from LPEA consumer-members who choose to contribute to support the development of renewable generation projects in their communities. This is the second year of the grant program and another innovative way LPEA contributes to the communities it serves.

Co-ops Keep Power Flowing Despite Coronavirus

Colorado’s electric cooperatives, including their power suppliers, are in emergency mode, protecting critical personnel and making sure the lights stay on for consumer-members across the state during the current coronavirus pandemic.

The state’s 22 electric cooperatives provide electricity to an estimated 1.75 million Coloradans living and working in all four corners of the state. Serving consumer-members along the edges of the Front Range populations areas, as well as those who live down quiet country roads, the co-ops serve 70% of the state’s landmass. Co-op employees, including the CEOs and managers, the lineworkers and the office personnel, all understand how critical the electricity they provide is getting to everyone through the current situation.

The co-ops are doing everything they can to make sure your electricity stays on and CREA, the statewide trade association for the co-ops, is working to support the co-ops in these efforts.

Keeping personnel safe
Personnel at your electric co-op are meeting regularly to assess the situation as closures, restrictions and the status of the virus change. Protocols are in place to make sure that the staff, particularly the critical staff, including lineworkers and control room operators, are healthy and following procedures to maintain their health. Your co-op is also in contact with the other co-ops around the state and has made plans for assistance in case there is a need.

Co-op employees are the ones who will make sure the lights stay on. With that in mind, each co-op has established protocols that are appropriate for the community they serve. Some, especially those serving the ski resort communities where early cases of COVID-19 were reported, immediately closed their facilities to public access. Other co-ops quickly followed to lessen the chances of staff contracting the virus.

Co-op office lobbies have been closed to the public; employees who can are working from home. No outside travel is allowed. Meetings are conducted over the phone or internet.

However, none of that means that co-op services for consumer-members has stopped. Member services representatives are still available to answer questions and resolve problems over the phone. Drop boxes are available for member payments.

The Colorado electric co-ops that utilize upgraded digital meters also have account information online for consumer-members that is available through the SmartHub app or website link. The app allows consumers-members to view their usage and connect with auto-pay services.

Information is updated regularly on each co-op’s website and Facebook page. Some co-ops also offer information through Twitter and Instagram.

Check with your local electric cooperative about newly implemented procedures designed to keep you as a consumer-member and staff members at the co-op safe and healthy.

Sharing information
The co-ops are also benefiting from their connection to other co-ops across the country. Weekly phone calls with co-ops in other states and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association allow Colorado’s co-ops to learn from others, discuss ways to keep employees safe and share alternate ways to provide specific services to consumer-members.

Colorado’s electric cooperatives are committed to maintaining reliable electric service for all of their consumer-members during this crisis and will do everything in their power to serve their communities.

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.

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.

Cooperative Mobile App Gets Update

Colorado’s electric co-ops utilize important technology to read meters, report outages and help consumer-members keep track of their energy usage. One tool some Colorado co-ops use for these purposes is SmartHub. This mobile app provides features that help consumers manage their accounts, see billing and payment information and detailed usage analysis.

SmartHub recently went through an upgrade, which still allows for the consumer to see analytics and billing details, but it has a new look and several new features, including outage and billing alerts on the home screen. This use of technology and a smartphone app is an innovative way co-ops can connect with their consumer-members.