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.

Co-op Brings Fiber to Eastern Plains

Earlier this month, Limon-based electric cooperative Mountain View Electric Association announced an exciting partnership with Conexon Connect to bring a fiber-to-the-home network to its rural communities. Eventually able to serve all of its members in Arapahoe, Crowley, Douglas, Elbert, El Paso, Lincoln, Pueblo and Washington counties, MVEA’s broadband project will bring nearly 5,800 miles of fiber, gigabit-speed internet to more than 135,000 Coloradans.

MVEA recognized a need for high speed internet in its rural communities and this project will “close the digital divide” between those who have access to advanced technology and those who don’t. This division was especially highlighted these past 14 months in the time of the pandemic when our world turned to virtual solutions for education, telehealth and work-from-home situations.

The co-op says customers should begin being able to subscribe to broadband services beginning in the second quarter of 2022 with a five- to six-year total build timeline.

New Website Promotes Beneficial Electrification

These days there are more efficient and cleaner electric technologies and appliances available for heating our homes, providing hot water and cooking our food. Electric technologies improve comfort, cooking performance, health and safety, and, in many cases, can reduce energy costs. They are also are a major part of the solution to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and impacts on climate change.

The Beneficial Electrification League of Colorado launched a new website in June to promote these efficient electric technologies to Colorado homeowners. The new “Love Electric” website (loveelectric.org) helps educate consumers on electric heat pumps, heat pump water heaters and induction cooktops. The website also provides a list of rebates from utilities and local governments. It is a resource for finding qualified heat pump and heat pump water heater installers, which can aid homeowners in getting bids on their next heating or cooling and water heater system upgrades.

But what is “beneficial electrification?” Switching from a non-electric energy source to an efficient electric energy source is beneficial because the electrical grid is increasingly powered by renewable energy. According to loveelectric.org, this means the electrification of certain home appliances and systems can:

  • Reducecustomer costs,
  • Lowergreenhouse gas emissions,
  • Improveindoor air quality, and
  • Utilizegrid resources more efficiently and flexibly.

BEL-CO is a coalition of utility, government, environmental and energy efficiency organizations, including the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, the Colorado Energy Office, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and the Colorado Rural Electric Association.

Visit loveelectric.org today to find out how you can electrify and energize your home systems and be part of this movement of beneficial electrification.

SMPA Receives Grant for Two EV Charging Stations

San Miguel Power Association announced that it received a Charge Ahead Colorado grant from the Colorado Energy Office The grant money will go toward the installation of two Level II Dual Port charging stations: one at SMPA’s office in Ridgway, and another one at its office in Nucla.

“We’re excited to be able to offer this service to our communities,” SMPA CEO Brad Zaporski said in a recent press release. “As folks begin to save money by replacing their gas automobiles with electric, they’re also contributing to a much larger effort to reduce carbon emissions as the electric grid that powers them gets cleaner every day.”

SMPA also offers beneficial electrification rebates to its consumer-members to help cover the costs of electric vehicles or all-electric homes, and lawn mowers and other outdoor power equipment. There are also rebates for private and public EV charging stations installed within the co-op’s service territory.

Co-ops Lead the Way in Grid Defense

The country’s electric co-ops have been instrumental in providing a market-ready early warning system that detects cyberattacks on utilities. Essence 2.0 was developed through work by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the co-ops’ national trade association, as part of its efforts to defend the nation’s energy supply from unknown, emerging threats.

The system provides “black box” sensing technology that measures the ongoing behavior of operations. Many cyberattacks lay dormant on a system for months before they are identified and mitigated. Essence 2.0 acts as a monitoring tool that accelerates the detection of any anomalies on the system that could indicate a breach.

Developed by NRECA in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, BlackByte Cyber Security, LLC, and Referentia Systems, the program was initiated in 2014. Essence 2.0 was introduced in 2020 and third-party evaluation has confirmed that the program does continuously assess the electric power grid for anything out of the ordinary, using a set of algorithms. When something unusual is detected, the technology provides immediate, real-time indicators.

“Being able to identify emerging threats in real time is the most important element of this approach so that electric cooperatives and other users can adapt quickly — not weeks later — to protect their systems,” said Emma Stewart, chief scientist at NRECA.

Agreements Accelerate Holy Cross Energy’s 100×30 Plan

Two new projects will help Glenwood Springs-based electric cooperative Holy Cross Energy meet its 100% renewable energy goal by 2030. The co-op recently signed agreements with AES Corporation for a solar project and a battery storage project. Combined, the “solar-plus-storage” projects move HCE toward its renewable energy goals outlined in its 100X30 plan announced in December 2020.

AES will develop the projects that will add a total of 20 megawatts of renewable energy capacity and 40 megawatt-hours of battery storage in two Colorado towns. High Mesa Solar in the Town of Parachute, and Peace Bear Ranch Solar in the Town of Silt, will each provide 10 MW of solar energy and 20 MWh of battery storage. HCE will buy the electricity and storage capacity from both projects.

“Projects like these will allow HCE to attain our 100X30 clean energy goals while keeping power supply costs low,” HCE VP, Power Supply & Programs Steve Beuning said in an April press release from HCE. “We are pleased to be partnering together with AES to develop reliable and resilient energy resources locally that will benefit all HCE members.”

The battery storage will allow HCE to shift electricity production from the solar panels into evening hours when customer demand is often highest. The development of the Peace Bear Ranch Solar project is contingent on the results of engineering studies currently being performed by Xcel Energy to assess grid impacts. Construction is planned to begin later this year, and the projects are expected to be fully operational by the end of 2022, subject to county land use permitting approvals.

Future editions of CREA’s Energy Innovations newsletter will keep you informed about the progress and completion of these projects throughout the remainder of the year.

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.