grant for high-speed internet

Grant for High-Speed Internet

A Monte Vista-based electric cooperative was awarded a USDA Rural Development grant of nearly $2 million to deploy fiber internet to rural parts of the San Luis Valley in Colorado. San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative’s internet subsidiary, Ciello, will use the grant for high-speed internet and will connect 129 people, eight businesses, one public school and 20 farms to the essential technology. Ciello began providing high-speed fiber internet access to its rural service territory in 2014.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in recent press release, “Connectivity is critical to economic success in rural America,” and is vital to its growth and prosperity.

Several Colorado electric co-ops have internet subsidiaries, including Southeast Colorado Power Association’s SECOM, Delta-Montrose Electric’s Elevate and Yampa Valley Electric’s Luminate. Mountain View Electric in Limon is currently constructing its 5,800-mile fiber-to-the-home network in partnership with Conexon Connect. Typically, in all of these instances, the fiber internet infrastructure is built using the co-op’s current electrical infrastructure.

These innovative solutions and partnerships help connect rural Colorado and will provide reliable internet access to underserved communities. This is just another example showing how Colorado’s electric co-ops are leaders in innovation and are continuously finding ways to bring critical utility services to their rural communities.

Congratulations to SLVREC and Ciello for the $1.9 million grant for high-speed internet. CREA looks forward to sharing more about how this project brings innovation to rural Colorado communities and residents.

stop for new ev technology in Julesburg

Stop for New EV Technology

Most drivers traveling to or from Denver through the northeastern plains of Colorado might approach exit 180 on Interstate 76 without much thought, but for electric vehicle drivers traveling the route, that’s about to change. Thanks to Highline Electric Association and its partnership with Tri-State Generation and Transmission and the Colorado Energy Office, the Wagon Wheel Conoco at exit 180 in Julesburg is home to the second-in-the-state single-phase DC fast charging station, making it an invaluable stop for new EV technology.

The FreeWire® Boost™ Charger 150 is located at an ideal place for EVs to hook up for a fast charge when driving along I-76 to or from Denver. The interchange is 180 miles from the Denver metro area and the placement couldn’t be more perfect, as the average range for most EVs is over 200 miles.

Highline Electric Association Manager of Member Services Tad Huser said this charger is designed for public use and this location on the interstate 76 corridor bridges the EV fast-charging gap between Fort Morgan, Colorado, and Ogallala, Nebraska.

Traditional EV fast chargers run on three-phase power, which can be a less common setup in rural areas due to the infrastructure demands and upgrades often needed to install a typical EV fast charger.

“The FreeWire Boost Charger technology enables public EV fast charging at gas stations, convenience stores and restaurants that run on single-phase power,” Huser stated.

Now for the specs: The Boost Charger 150 unit has an on-board 160-kilowatt-hour battery that can impart up to 150 kilowatts of power to a single user. If both charging heads are being used, the max power to each charging head is split and can charge at 75kW max each. Both charging heads are the CCS connector that is quickly becoming the international standard outside of Tesla’s proprietary connector.

The fees at the station are $0.25 per kWh and there is a parking/idle fee of $0.10 per minute after 30 minutes of idle (plugged-in) time to incentivize unplugging and moving along once charging is complete. The station has a credit card terminal where users can swipe to pay. Users may also scan a QR code on the unit that takes them to the EV Connect mobile app where they can pay via their phone as well. The next time you need to pull over for “fuel,” make this stop for new EV technology.

Electric Co-op Pilot Program Benefits Time-of-Use Rates

Digital communication can often be sporadic and interrupted in Colorado’s rugged, mountainous high country. Gunnison-based electric co-op, GCEA, was concerned that interruptions in its digital communication with its advanced meters was affecting the accuracy of the readings.

Looking for solutions and verification of the data received from its advanced meters, GCEA ran an innovative pilot program last fall and winter. Called Peak Time Perks, the program tested GCEA’s Meter Data Management system. (The MDM system recognizes readings that are missing, flags them and runs estimations on the missing readings to fill in the correct data. The estimations are based on data industry-accepted validation processes established by the North American Energy Standards Board and the Edison Electric Institute.)

GCEA found that in actuality few communication outages prevented readings from reporting to co-op headquarters. And when outages did occur, the missing readings were estimated correctly by the MDM system.

All of this is important because co-op members who utilize the co-op’s time-of-use rate depend on accurate digital records as they control their usage to take advantage of lower rates at certain times. So, during the Peak Time Perks pilot program, GCEA also included a test of its time-of-use rate with members interested in seeing if the rate would provide them with actual savings on their electric bill.

The co-op and it participating members were pleased to see cost savings on the TOU rate compared to the standard residential rate.

 

United Power Focuses on Geothermal Resources

Earlier this year, United Power announced that it signed a letter of intent with Transitional Energy, a geothermal development company, to develop a dispatchable energy pilot program. This innovative program will focus on geothermal resources from oil and gas operations located in the Brighton-based electric cooperative’s service territory.

United Power provides electric service to multiple oil and gas operations in Colorado’s DJ Oil Basin, many of which use traditional electric service to power drilling rigs and other equipment. The partnership between United Power and Transitional Energy will provide a unique solution that can convert oil and gas operations using traditional electric service to facilities powered by up to 100% geothermal resources. It’s anticipated that owner-operators of wells in the United Power service territory will work directly with Transitional Energy to utilize the technology to offset their energy purchases while reducing their greenhouse gas footprint.

“United Power is excited to work on this innovative pilot project,” United Power’s Chief Energy Resources Officer Dean Hubbuck said in a press release. “Utilizing clean, economical geothermal energy to provide local power that can be dispatched when needed is a critical component of our growing energy portfolio. Geothermal energy represents a huge untapped renewable resource that can reduce our reliance on power from other traditional sources.”

 

Better Meter Info Helps Co-op Lower Usage

Glenwood Springs-based electric cooperative Holy Cross Energy is focused on facilitating the adoption of distributed energy resources to assist in meeting its goal of supplying its members with 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

More recently, HCE was looking for an innovative solution to gather real-time data about its members’ electricity patterns to help study grid use and impact. Advanced metering infrastructure does a decent job delivering this information to the co-op, but HCE wanted grid insight that was nearer to real-time.

The co-op turned to Boulder-based Copper Labs, which offers a utility data solution that can deliver the information the co-op was seeking. With Copper, HCE evaluated members’ energy use and used the data to see how people’s electricity usage behavior changed when they saw real-time, personalized insights on the Copper app. HCE members who used Copper were twice as likely to reduce their energy use when prompted by the Copper app — this translated to lower peak time energy use, resulting in lower service costs for the member.

Electric Co-ops Connect to Promote EVs

In an effort to coordinate program development for transportation electrification, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association started a network of electric co-ops that make up the Cooperative Approach to Vehicle Electrification. This group is for electric co-ops that implemented or are planning to implement electric transportation programs. CAVE seeks to work with federal agencies, specifically, for programs funded by the 2021 $1 trillion infrastructure act.

Cooperatives’ transportation electrification programs will vary by region, state, local communities and cooperative needs. But overall, the CAVE network has several objectives, which include:

• Building innovative solutions that focus on charging infrastructure in rural and low-income communities.

• Creating education-based programs to inform consumers, dealers and policy makers on the value of electric transportation.

• Exploring options for fleets, transit bus, school bus and medium/heavy duty truck adoption and charging solutions.

• Demonstrating unique programs and best practices that utilize technologies to improve grid reliability.

Currently, three Colorado electric cooperatives are part of CAVE: La Plata Electric Association in Durango; San Isabel Electric Association in Pueblo West; and United Power in Brighton. These three cooperatives have made a significant impact on transportation electrification in Colorado.

SIEA brought EV charging to its service territory, including low income rural areas. LPEA is developing a robust network of charging stations across southern Colorado and assisted its local school district in securing a vehicle-to-grid-capable electric school bus. United Power is expanding its network of charging stations throughout northern Colorado and added a hybrid bucket truck to its fleet.

SMPA Helps County Obtain Microgrid Grant

San Miguel Power Association, an electric cooperative based in Ridgway and Nucla, recently partnered with San Miguel County to install a microgrid. A microgrid is an “island” system with electricity sources that can operate independently to provide electricity when the greater grid loses power.

SMPA helped the county apply for a Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant and it received $1.1 million to build two solar PV and energy storage microgrid systems. The co-op helped the county with solar and battery system design support, critical load determination, grant writing support, beneficial electrification rebates and interconnection and net-metering agreements

These innovative microgrid projects benefit two crucial parts of the San Miguel County sheriff’s department: the annex building in Norwood and the Ilium sheriff office near Telluride. These two sites are perfect examples of how microgrids can maintain 100% reliability for mission-critical loads. Mission-critical loads for the two sites were defined as building lighting, receptacles, communications and internet, control rooms, IT servers and radio rooms, and protective custody and lock systems.

The resiliency these microgrids provide the county offers peace of mind and security for the county during crises, outages and emergency situations, such as the myriad disasters Mother Nature can serve up in the mountain areas SMPA serves.

Hydropower from 100-Year-Old Dam

San Luis Valley REC recently celebrated 10 years of drawing renewable hydropower from the 100-year-old Humphreys Dam in Creede. The 90-foot concrete arch is like a miniature Hoover Dam. It was modernized 10 years ago into a cost-effective facility with a single-phase generator capable of generating up to 340 kilowatts of hydropower. It supplies about 1% of SLVREC’s renewable energy.

Drones Now Help Co-op Serve Consumer-Members

Buena Vista-based Colorado electric cooperative, SDCEA, was recently featured in a National Rural Electric Cooperative Association podcast that discussed the use of drones in the electric utility industry.

NRECA research and survey data shows that over 300 electric co-ops in the U.S. use drones on their system. And with its rugged territory and sometimes difficult-to-access equipment locations, SDCEA is a prime example of how this rapidly changing UAS technology can assist in ways previously never thought possible.

Bill Hovanec, GIS lead at SDCEA, stated in the interview that the drone program has been helping the co-op for 18 months. He said it’s a cost-effective way to get a lot of data that would otherwise be unavailable. Co-ops are typically smaller organizations with smaller budgets, but over the years, drone costs have gone down in price, and insurance, regulations and training expenses are also decreasing, making a robust drone program more accessible.

“Most rural co-ops can afford a couple drones to test and they bring back positive results,” Bill said. At SDCEA, the drone data collected comes directly back to GIS; operations and line crews can pull up the pictures of what they see and get what they need before they even go out to make repairs or work on maintenance.

Bill appreciates the functionality with drones and uses in GIS every day. The more Bill learns about UAS technology and capabilities, the more he sees how major weather events and natural disasters can benefit from drone data. Events such as wildfires and snowstorms the service area is prone to may limit access to equipment, but drones give an “eyeball on it.” An important part of SDCEA’s overall maintenance plan to improve reliability and safety is wildfire mitigation. Bill stated in the interview that drones help with data collection for trouble spots on the system.

Mission and flight planning, as well as analyzing and processing the data is the most time consuming for any electric cooperative drone program. The actual flight may take an hour, but flight planning and data processing is more important and can take about twice as much time.

Bill hasn’t had too many bad experiences when he or his pilot crew is flying the co-op’s drone. Some consumer-members get frustrated and question privacy, but he said most people are more interested than upset. SDCEA knocks on doors prior to a flight to let consumer-members in the flight path know what the co-op is doing beforehand. And just like line crews, the drone team maintains safety practices and gets the aircraft on the ground before they answer any questions.

SDCEA’s program currently has three pilots and one drone and the co-op is hoping to expand its drone inspection program.

United Power Installs New EV Charger

Bridging a 30-mile gap between electric vehicle DC fast-charge stations along I-25, United Power recently installed a new public charging station.

The new ChargePoint station is conveniently located along the northern corridor of I-25 between Thornton and Loveland.

Located at its Carbon Valley service center, this is the third public EV charger installed by the Brighton-based electric co-op. The co-op’s other two stations are located at its Coal Creek office in Golden and a gas station in Keenesburg. United Power’s strategic EV charging locations are helping make EVs more practical for Coloradans and more accessible for people living in rural communities.