MVEA Launches EV Pilot Study

Limon-based Mountain View Electric Association launched a pilot program for a select number of its consumer-members who own electric vehicles.

The 12-month SmartCharge MVEA program in partnership with FleetCarma is aimed at helping the electric distribution co-op plan for future and increased adoption of EVs among consumer-members in the co-op’s service territory. The co-op wants more data on how, when and where EV owners charge their vehicles so it can plan for the impact on its electric system.

Here’s how it works: Participants with a compatible EVs are given a small device to plug into their EV onboard diagnostic port that tracks and pinpoints charging consumption on the grid. In addition to sending this data to MVEA, the device also provides analytics to the EV owner about the vehicle and use. Participants can track things such as their EV’s trip data, auxiliary load, battery health and the breakdown of charging from different charger levels.

The charging data collected over the 12-month study period will help MVEA plan and manage the grid to ensure EV charging remains reliable for everyone.

IREA’s Pioneer Solar Begins Production

In February, Sedalia-based Intermountain Rural Electric Association announced that its new utility-scale Pioneer Solar facility began production in December 2020.

The facility, which sits on 540 acres east of Denver in Bennett, generates 80 megawatts of power that will be utilized on IREA’s system for at least the next 10 years. Pioneer Solar has more than 230,000 single-axis tracking photovoltaic panels that follow the sun’s path to increase exposure.

This is the cooperative’s second utility-scale solar facility, and more renewable projects are slated to come online by the end of 2021. The co-op will have nearly 200 megawatts of renewable energy capacity on its system by 2025.

Drone Line Inspections Look for Potential Problems

Throughout April, Gunnison-based electric cooperative Gunnison County Electric Association contracted with UAV Recon to perform a system check of all 1,096 miles of GCEA distribution lines and power poles using drones. This is the second year of the co-op’s three-year drone inspection project.

This innovative use of drones is becoming more common among Colorado’s electric cooperatives, as drones can get to the hard-to-access regions in electric co-op service territories.

GCEA’s goals with this project are to identify maintenance issues to ensure better system reliability and to assist the co-op in fire mitigation efforts. The drone footage allows crews to be more efficient, as the data collected shows exactly where crews need to go to repair or troubleshoot.

“It also allows us to have pictures of all the pole top assemblies to assist our staking engineers,” GCEA Member Relations Supervisor Alliy Sahagun said. “With walking line inspections, [crews] can never see the pole top or the top of a cross arm where most of the decay will show. A drone shows all aspects of the structure.”

So far this inspection period, the photos collected across GCEA territory have revealed only a few issues that need to be addressed quickly, such as a few “danger trees,” (trees that could potentially fall into power lines and equipment, sparking a wildfire) and pins ready to fall out of insulators.

GCEA alerted consumer-members of the drone inspections via press releases, social media postings and ads in the local newspaper.

Electric Co-op Fiber Subsidiary Partners with School District

Steamboat Springs-based electric cooperative Yampa Valley Electric Association and its fiber internet subsidiary, Luminate, recently announced a project partnership with South Routt School District.

Luminate will help bring internet access and services to students, teachers and other district staff who currently lack stable and reliable internet for virtual learning. The district applied for and was awarded funds through the Connecting Colorado Students Grant Program that will assist in the buildout costs. Nearly 1,200 homes and district campuses will be set up with access to gigabit fiber. Service is expected to begin at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, serving the Oak Creek, Phippsburg and Yampa communities in northwestern Colorado.

District superintendent Rim Watson stated that the district is fortunate to have a partnership with Luminate and YVEA, as both entities understand the role of quality internet service in the success of students, some of whom had no internet access at all when school went remote in 2020.

Luminate is grateful to partner with the district for this necessary service, YVEA General Manager and CEO Steve Johnson said in a February press release.

Electric Co-op Brings EV Infrastructure to Southern Colorado

In February, Durango-based electric cooperative La Plata Electric Association announced exciting electric vehicle news for two communities it serves.

The town of Bayfield and LPEA joined together to bring 24/7 access to a free Level II EV charging station located in Bayfield’s town hall parking lot. A grant from the Colorado Energy Office’s Charge Ahead Program and LPEA funding made the charging station possible.

Located one-half mile from Highway 160 — one of the EV charging corridors identified by the CEO — the station brings charging access to regional travelers as well as local residents. It has spots for two vehicles to charge at the same time and can deliver a full charge in about 4 hours. The station will have zero fees until Labor Day 2021.

And to the west in nearby Durango, the city’s first-ever EV DC fast-charging station was approved for construction and is expected to be energized by June 2021. The station will be located in the Durango Transit Center parking lot, next to the two existing Level II charging stations. The DC fast chargers will deliver a full charge in approximately 20 minutes, compared to the 4 hours that it takes a Level II charger.

LPEA is certain these two innovative EV charging infrastructure updates to its communities will encourage people to make the switch to EVs.

First EV Fast Charger Energized in Montrose

Delta-Montrose Electric Association connected Montrose’s first DC electric vehicle fast-charging station in January.

The electric co-op owns and operates the two ChargePoint Dual Platform fast chargers that were made possible with help from a grant from the Colorado Energy Office’s Charge Ahead program. DMEA donated in-kind labor to bring the electric service to the EV chargers, while the Charge Ahead grant funded approximately 80% of the construction costs. A partnership with the city of Montrose brought about the public parking space and lot maintenance where the chargers are located.

The charging fee at DMEA’s Montrose ChargePoint Fast Charger is 20 cents per kilowatt hour, plus a 25 cent per minute parking fee. EV travelers will enjoy their stop in downtown Montrose for a quick charge, and, while waiting, drivers will be able to support nearby businesses and restaurants.

This is not the first charging station in DMEA’s service territory. Montrose’s new fast charger brings the count of public EV chargers to 31, spread across the communities of Delta, Cedaredge, Paonia, Montrose and near Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

YVEA Unveils New EV Fast Charger

Steamboat Springs-based electric cooperative Yampa Valley Electric Association unveiled and energized a new EV charging station on February 8.

YVEA’s partnership with Routt County, the town of Yampa, the Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado Energy Office and Travelodge by Wyndham brought the Level 3 EV charging station to the area. Located at the Travelodge in Yampa’s central business district, the fast charger will connect the important travel corridor along Colorado Highway 131. It will also connect Yampa to Meeker along the Flattops Scenic Byway.

This is the second grant YVEA received through the CEO’s Charge Ahead Colorado program. The first grant in 2019 helped install two EV charging stations at YVEA’s campuses in Craig and Steamboat Springs. The EV charging station in Craig was the first public charging station in Moffat County.

“EVs will benefit our cooperative, membership, communities and environment as we strive to ‘electrify everything,’” YVEA CEO and General Manager Steve Johnson said.

New Co-op Program Combines Efficiency and Solar

Ridgway-based electric cooperative San Miguel Power Association has developed programs for income-qualified consumer-members who struggle to pay their electric bills. SMPA designed these I.Q. programs to enhance the co-op’s home efficiency program — the I.Q. Weatherization Program — and to increase consumer-members’ access to community solar.

Assistance from the I.Q. Weatherization Program begins with a complete home energy assessment courtesy of the cooperative. The co-op’s energy auditor visits a consumer-member’s home to perform a blower door test and to take other measurements to determine the energy efficiency of the home. The tests reveal if the home needs upgrades such as LED lighting, low-flow fixtures, air sealing work, insulation upgrades, appliance upgrades and other energy efficiency improvements that can lower electricity use and high electricity bills. Once the improvements and upgrades are made — at no cost to the consumer-member — the savings on the monthly electric bill are immediate and significant.

After the energy audit and upgrades are complete, the consumer-member is enrolled in the I.Q. Solar Program, where they are granted a five-year subscription to the co-op’s 200-kilowatt community solar array. This solar program gives those qualified consumer-members access to a maximum of 2 kilowatts of generation, providing savings from local and renewable solar power. Consumer-members receive bill credits for their portion of the array’s generation each month, thus lowering their bills even more.

In true cooperative spirit, SMPA is excited to provide these weatherization and solar programs to its consumer-members in need of help.

Electric School Bus Comes to Southern Colorado

Durango-based La Plata Electric Association collaborated with Durango School District 9-R to apply for a grant to purchase a fully-electric school bus and install the necessary charging infrastructure.

The district was awarded over $300,000 for the equipment through the grant from the Regional Air Quality Council’s ALT Fuels Colorado program. The grant to the school district was one of eight grants awarded out of 38 total applicants. LPEA will contribute an additional $120,000 to help cover costs.

Not only is this the first electric school bus for the school district, but it is also the first vehicle-to-grid installation in LPEA’s service territory. Using bi-directional charging, the bus can pull electricity from the grid to charge during off peak hours, and LPEA can pull electricity from the vehicle onto the grid during critical times when power is needed.

This innovative project will reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality.

More Solar Power for United Power Consumer-Members

Brighton-based United Power recently completed construction on its newest solar project, Rattlesnake Solar Farm.

This solar farm will provide an additional 6 megawatts of energy to the electric cooperative’s renewable energy portfolio, bringing United Power to more than 43 MWs of local, utility-scale solar. This is in addition to the more than 5,500 residential rooftop systems that are connected to United Power’s system.

The advancement and innovation of local renewable energy is not new for United Power. It launched its first innovative community solar model in 2009, which was the first of its kind in Colorado.