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.

Tri-State Announces Responsible Energy Plan

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is pursuing an aggressive Responsible Energy Plan to transition to a cleaner energy portfolio, while ensuring reliability, increasing member flexibility and with a goal to lower wholesale rates.

“Our membership and board are unified in our pursuit of a cleaner, reliable and lower-cost resource portfolio,” said Rick Gordon, chairman of the cooperative’s board of directors. “We are making a strong and unequivocal commitment to transform Tri-State’s resource portfolio in a prudent and responsible manner.”

Tri-State’s Board of Directors has passed several resolutions to support the development of a plan that will guide the cooperative in its energy transition. Tri-State’s Responsible Energy Plan will set goals and pathways to:
• Comply with aggressive carbon reduction, renewable energy and resource planning requirements
• Ensure the reliability and affordability of Tri-State’s wholesale power system
• Strive to lower wholesale rates while maintaining Tri-State’s strong financial position

“Tri-State’s Responsible Energy Plan will define how wholesale cooperatives leverage disruptive technology opportunities to strengthen and empower members and the communities they serve,” said Duane Highley, Tri- State’s chief executive officer. “We will be clean, reliable, flexible and affordable, and do it all within our not-for- profit cooperative business model.”

The plan will recognize the significant accomplishments Tri-State and its members have achieved, identify goals and processes for carbon reduction and renewable energy development, and identify the external policy changes needed to fulfill the plan. Additional components of the plan include and exploring opportunities with solar and energy services providers to make community-scale solar, energy storage and electric vehicle infrastructure more available to our members at a lower cost.

Partnership with Gov. Ritter, Center for the New Energy Economy to support Responsible Energy Plan

A key part of Tri-State’s approach is an engagement with former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE) at Colorado State University to facilitate a collaborative stakeholder process for Tri-State that will contribute to and help define the Responsible Energy Plan.

Located at Colorado State University, the CNEE “educates, convenes, and inspires decision-makers to create policies that facilitate America’s equitable transition to a clean energy economy.”

“My team and I welcome the opportunity to work with Tri-State in facilitating this stakeholder process,” said former Governor Ritter. “At a time when the power sector is transitioning in a dynamic way, assisting Tri-State in developing a resource plan that reflects that transition is a true privilege.”

“As a cooperative, we understand that transformative change requires understanding and engagement with stakeholders,” said Highley. “Governor Ritter and the Center for the New Energy Economy will convene for Tri- State the best and brightest to surface ideas that will inform and advance our planning.”

Cooperative’s membership actively considering contract changes for more flexibility, local renewables

Tri-State’s membership is currently considering greater contract flexibility for members, including partial requirements contracts that would allow for more local renewable energy projects.

As a cooperative, Tri-State’s members govern the terms of the cooperative’s wholesale power contracts through the board of directors. A contract committee of the membership, including representatives from each member system, are developing recommendations to the board

“Our members are developing recommendations to make their wholesale power contracts more flexible,” said Gordon. “With partial requirements contracts, members could increase local renewables while also maintaining the value and security of being a member of Tri-State.”

New mission statement reinforces responsibility

Tri-State’s Board of Directors also voted to update the cooperative’s mission statement at their July meeting in support of the broad transition underway. Tri-State’s mission is now “to provide our member systems a reliable, affordable and responsible supply of electricity in accordance with cooperative principles.”

The statement’s change to address responsibility speaks to Tri-State’s mission as an electric cooperative to be responsible to its members and the communities they serve, as well as the cooperative’s responsibility to be resilient, compliant and a good steward of the land, air and water.

Proactive agenda will address electric industry challenges and cooperative utility needs

As part of the Responsible Energy Plan, Tri-State will advance a proactive agenda to address electric utility and cooperative needs for a successful, reliable and affordable carbon reduction and renewable energy transition.

Tri-State will address key issues including developing Western regional electricity markets, assisting impacted energy-producing communities, continuing and developing new tax incentives, addressing permitting for transmission line and power plants, and reconsidering the value of hydropower to ensure the Responsible Energy Plan’s success.

“As we transition, we cannot make these changes alone,” said Highley. “Our industry requires working with a wide group of stakeholders to address the numerous challenges that are more successfully addressed with partners.”

“We recognize that Tri-State facilities, employees and communities will be affected by the changes ahead,” said Highley. “Regulatory rulemakings and significant study must be completed to understand how to comply with new laws while preserving reliability and affordability, but we know our system and operations will change.”

Tri-State actions to date support plan goals

In the past 10 years, Tri-State and its members have taken significant steps that lay the groundwork for the Responsible Energy Plan. These include:
• In early 2019, Tri-State announced it is adding an additional 100 megawatts of solar and 104 megawatts of wind to its resource portfolio, which will increase its wind and solar energy by 45 percent. Tri-State currently has more than 475 megawatts of utility-scale wind, solar and other renewable projects in its portfolio.
• In June 2019, Tri-State issued its sixth renewable request for proposals since 2007.
• In 2018, nearly a third of the energy consumed through Tri-State’s members came from renewable energy. Less than half of Tri-State’s renewable portfolio is from federal hydropower.
• Tri-State is reducing its use of coal by increasingly accessing market power when advantageous, the retirement of San Juan Generating Station capacity in New Mexico in 2017, and the retirement of Nucla Station in early 2020 and Craig Station Unit 1 by the end of 2025.
• Tri-State’s Energy Efficiency Products Program, which has been in place for decades, had record levels of funding for members in 2018.

MVEA Encourages Energy Efficiency

One of Mountain View Electric Association’s goals is to make sure consumer-members take advantage of its energy efficiency programs; and that is becoming more and more of a reality.

For the third year in a row, the Limon-based electric cooperative held a whole-home LED lighting giveaway, giving consumer-members an opportunity to win LED bulbs for their entire home. This year, the LED giveaway — valued at $500 — was awarded to six MVEA consumers; MVEA even visits the winners’ homes to install the bulbs.

This, and the co-op’s other energy efficiency programs, allows consumer-members to participate in energy efficiency efforts. These efforts help people use less electricity and reduce the overall demand for electricity in the co-op’s service territory.

Energy Innovations Featured at CREA’s Summit

Well-known speakers and interesting discussion panels are scheduled for the October 28 Energy Innovations Summit hosted by CREA, the trade association for Colorado’s electric cooperatives.

Held at the Grand Hyatt Denver Hotel at 1750 Welton St., the day-long conference will feature luncheon speaker Michael Shellenberger, founder and president of Environmental Progress.
Other topics planned for the day include net zero carbon emissions, micro grids and energy storage such as batteries. A vendor fair introducing attendees to innovative equipment and software will also be available to participants.

You can register for the conference here. The conference is open to anyone interested in what’s ahead for the electric industry.

United Power Earns Place on Top 10 List

Congratulations to United Power, which earned a spot on an annual Top 10 utility industry list compiled by the Smart Electric Power Alliance. The Brighton-based electric cooperative received this distinction for being one of a select group of utilities that connected the most storage capacity to the grid in 2018.

United Power currently operates two Tesla battery storage systems. In survey results, United Power ranked number 10 on the utility energy storage list for annual megawatt-hours. Its battery storage systems provided 18.2 megawatt-hours in interconnected capacity in 2018.

United Power is the only Colorado utility to make the top 10 and is one of the smaller utilities that made the list. But clearly size doesn’t matter when it comes to innovation: United Power has been a leader in cooperative battery storage innovation as well as a leader in various solar projects, both in the state and across the country. CREA is excited to see what the cooperative does next.

The 12th Annual Utility Market Survey collected figures from over 500 utilities across the country. The full Top 10 listings are available online.

Two Colorado Co-ops Unveil EV Charging Stations

This summer, two electric co-ops unveiled new electric vehicle charging stations in their service territories. These charging stations were installed and funded, in part, from Charge Ahead Colorado grants.

Meeker-based White River Electric Association celebrated its new charging station with a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 24. EV drivers can charge their vehicle at one of three spots with the use of the ChargePoint app; they are charged nominal rates per kilowatt-hour. Drivers are encouraged to walk around Meeker while their EV charges and the app will alert them when charging is complete.

Yampa Valley Electric Association also received a Charge Ahead Colorado grant from the Colorado Energy Office and presented its new charging stations on June 25. Located at YVEA’s Craig and Steamboat Springs campuses, the charging stations are for employee and public use. The station in Craig is the first publicly accessible charging station in Moffat County.

MPE Proposes Electric School Bus for Local District

It’s back-to-school time and Mountain Parks Electric in Granby is already busy doing its homework. The Granby-based electric co-op is gathering information to potentially help the East Grand School District get its first electric school bus – and at a significantly lower cost than that of a traditional diesel bus.

The co-op has been involved in school board meetings, worked on proposals, crunched numbers and researched state grants. The proposed electric bus would reduce fuel costs, require less overall maintenance, reduce noise and lower pollution levels in the area.

Tri-State Issues RFP for Renewables

Already the leading solar generation and transmission cooperative in the United States, Tri-State Generation and Transmission wants to increase its renewable energy resource portfolio. In June, the Westminster-based co-op power supplier issued its sixth request for proposals for renewable energy resources.

RFPs for long-term purchase agreements for wind and solar sites allow Tri-State to identify low-cost projects while maximizing tax benefits. According to a press release, Tri-State and its members have enough renewable resources to power the equivalent of more than 570,000 rural homes. And in early 2019, the G&T announced two new power purchase agreements in Colorado: the 100-megawatt Spanish Peaks Solar and the 104-megawatt Crossing Trails Wind projects.

This most recent RFP seeks 10MW to 200MW projects with terms of 15-25 years. Tri-State expects to make decisions on any new projects by the end of the year.