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.

Highline Electric Association’s Riverview Solar Begins Generation

Construction of a new solar project in northeastern Colorado was recently completed and the site began generation on November 15. More than 5,000 panels make up Highline Electric Association’s 1.5-megawatt Riverview solar project. The single-axis panels face east in the morning and track the sun across the sky throughout the day. This is the Holyoke-based electric co-op’s second local, renewable generation project and is estimated to be able to power 300-500 homes or about 20 irrigation wells.

When combined with the generation from the Trailblazer waste heat recovery project, Highline will receive up to 4% of its annual energy requirements form local, renewable projects. The co-op is evaluating other renewable project options on its system that make sense for the co-op and its consumer-members.

A Look Back at 2019 Co-op Innovations

From rebates and EV chargers to solar projects and industry awards, 2019 was an impressive year of innovation at Colorado’s electric cooperatives.

Many co-ops, including San Isabel Electric and Mountain Parks Electric, gave local community businesses tens of thousands of dollars of rebates for everything from lighting upgrades to heat pumps. Mountain View Electric Association, based in Limon, gave away six whole-home LED updates to consumer-member residences across its service territory.

New EV charging stations were installed in White River Electric and Yampa Valley Electric Association’s territories thanks to Charge Ahead Colorado grants. San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative added an EV charger at its headquarters in Monte Vista as part of the services it offers.

KC Electric Association in Hugo announced it has three wind farms coming in its service territory on the eastern plains, expected to be in service by the end of 2020.

Tri-State announced its Spanish Peaks Solar project, to be located in southern Colorado. It is expected to be completed in 2023. Tri-State also announced its responsible energy plan in pursuit of a cleaner and lower-cost resource portfolio.

In 2019, Brighton-based United Power celebrated 10 years of community solar. Sangre de Cristo Electric held its first community solar project ribbon cutting at Trout Creek Solar. This solar site sits on Colorado corrections facility land in Buena Vista. Holy Cross Energy is also repurposing land for the co-op’s new Woody Creek Solar farm, to be built on land owned by the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District. And San Luis Valley REC took loads of supplies on horseback to build a new solar site atop Turret Peak.

United Power earned a place on a top 10 utility industry list for its battery storage system and White River Electric Association’s Piceance Creek Solar was named the 2019 Utility Scale Project of the Year.

To read more about these innovative projects, stay tuned to this Energy Innovations webpage.

Pitkin County Solar Farm Approved

The Pitkin County Board of Commissioners approved the development of a new solar farm. The site, developed by Holy Cross Energy, will be built near the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport on land owned by the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District. The land was used as a biosolid disposal site until 2005. The sanitation district sees the solar farm as a useful way for the land to be repurposed.

Debated thoroughly by community members and stakeholders, the solar farm will meet the requests of 69% of Holy Cross Energy consumer-members who want renewable energy from a community-based project. The site will be close to existing Holy Cross infrastructure, which will help the electric co-op minimize digging to install extra underground cables to support and energize the solar farm.

Innovations Summit Looks to Future

Stakeholders from all parts of the electric industry in Colorado were among the approximately 375 people attending the CREA Energy Innovations Summit October 28 in downtown Denver.

A lively discussion of what is needed for Colorado’s electric industry, particularly the electric co-ops, to transition to more renewables opened the event. Former Gov. Bill Ritter, now with the Center for the New Energy Economy, and Duane Highley, new CEO of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, talked about the innovations on the horizon that both of their organizations are pursuing.

The day-long conference also included controversial luncheon speaker Michael Shellenberger, a pro-nuclear energy environmentalist named by Time magazine as a “hero of the environment.”

Other topics discussed in breakouts during the day included breakout sessions on community choice aggregation, micro grids, new technologies and beneficial electrification. There was also an update on energy storage before the day wrapped up with an update of regional electricity markets for Colorado.

Venders also shared their products and services and helped cover the conference’s costs.

To hear the opening discussion and several other sessions, click here. To review slides presented during panel discussions, click here.

Heat Pumps Pay Off For Granby Resort

Mountain Parks Electric presented a $29,700 rebate check to River Run RV Resort. The Granby resort installed low-temperature, all-electric, air-source heat pumps for heating and air-conditioning in its 44 rental cottages.

The heat pump in each unit is more efficient and has lower heating costs than electric baseboard heat. This innovative solution will help the resort save money over time, and the rebate from Mountain Parks Electric was well-received.

Colorado Remains in 14th Place on the ACEEE Scorecard

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Colorado 14th in the nation on its 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. This annual report measures states’ progress on a variety of energy efficiency efforts including utility policies, transportation policies, building energy efficiency policies, combined heat and power, and state government initiatives.

Colorado electric cooperatives contribute to this ranking by supporting innovative energy efficiency projects and initiatives on many levels from providing programs for cooperative consumer-members to working with the state legislature. Colorado is among a handful of states that recently renewed, extended or strengthened energy efficiency targets for utilities and statewide programs to lay the groundwork for future savings.

San Luis Valley REC Completes New Solar Site

Turret Peak, sitting 16,662 feet above sea level, has a new solar site thanks to Monte Vista-based San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative. Completed in September at Humphreys Ranch, the solar site addition was constructed to supplement a solar setup that wasn’t fully supporting the infrastructure that delivers high-speed internet to the ranch.

Challenging, to say the least, the solar site install took a lot of innovation and hard work.
Several trips were made up the mountain with horses saddled and loaded with the solar site batteries. The solar panels and cabinet to house the batteries were brought up on a sled arrangement. And SLVREC team members made the one-mile hike with the tools and framework to put the solar panels into place.

The new solar site serves three purposes: to provide phone and internet to the ranch through Ciello (a subsidiary of SLVREC); to give the co-op the ability to read meters remotely; and eventually the co-op will be able to read output information from another project in the area.

Mountain Parks Electric Dedicates New Solar Sites

The power that Mountain Parks Electric delivers to local homes and businesses is becoming greener and greener as the Granby-based electric co-op incorporates even more solar into its generation mix.

Contractors installed a large 1-MW commercial solar array near Walden — Whiskey Hill Solar— which begins production later this year. And Sifers Solar, another 1-MW project, will be dedicated and celebrated on November 7. With these new solar sites, MPE will power approximately 600 homes with locally-generated solar power.

Another solar option that Mountain Parks utilizes is purchasing power from the innovative floating solar array at the town of Walden’s drinking water treatment facility. This 208-panel array is the first of its kind in Colorado and can produce up to 75 kWh of energy.

GCEA Offers Community Solar

As of October 1, Gunnison County Electric Association and the town of Crested Butte offer a short-term community solar leasing option for GCEA’s consumer-members.

The Gunnison-based electric cooperative’s community solar garden consists of 20 250-watt solar panels and 52 290-watt panels. For a fee, consumer-members may lease up to five solar panels either on a month-to-month basis or with a longer lease through the town of Crested Butte. The generation will be metered and consumer-members’ bills will be offset with a bill credit with a portion of the total production of the panels they lease. Each panel is anticipated to produce 1.3 kilowatt-hour per day.

This initiative, along with the co-op’s prolific electric vehicle program are just two forward-thinking ways the co-op serves its consumer-members.