The Energy Innovations newsletter is your source for the latest innovations by Colorado’s electric co-ops.

Electric School Buses Get a Push

The move to electrify school buses across the country got a new push when The Beneficial Electrification League announced an initiative to accelerate the deployment of these buses in electric cooperative service territories.

BEL launched this coalition effort in advance of federal funds targeted to electric school buses in the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs act passed by Congress in 2021.

“Colorado’s rural electric cooperatives are excited to partner with schools to bring the benefits of electric school buses to communities all across the state,” said Kent Singer, CREA executive director. “We believe these buses can bring a lot of benefits to students, the school systems and the electric cooperative community.”

In Colorado, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, CREA and three local electric co-ops are participating in the BEL initiative. Colorado also has two electric school buses deployed with the assistance of local electric co-ops with a third soon to be added.

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New EV Chargers Hit Winter Park Resort

Winter Park Resort is sporting 14 new EV chargers, thanks to Granby-based Mountain Parks Electric and its power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

According to a January press release, Tri-State provided project funding to support and expand EV use in the region and MPE facilitated project planning and coordination. At the resort, Village Parking Garage now has six chargers and the outdoor B Lot has eight. Representatives from the co-op and Tri-State presented Winter Park Resort with a check at a January 11 ribbon cutting event.

MPE General Manager Mark Johnston said, “Since the ski resort chargers were energized a couple of weeks ago, skiers have been plugging in.” And the co-op expects usage to increase over time as consumers get more access to EVs and as charging infrastructure continues to grow and develop in mountain communities.

Co-op Rebates Give Back Cash and Smiles

Colorado’s electric co-ops with Tri-State Generation and Transmission have offered energy-efficiency rebates in partnership with their power supplier for years. Rebates have been made available for LED bulbs, Energy Star appliances, electric water heaters and much more. It’s an innovative and well-received program that’s helped thousands of consumer-members. Rebate programs not only give cash back to consumer-members, but they can also increase efficiency efforts at consumer homes, which typically translates into savings on residential electric bills. Who doesn’t like that?

The concept of consumer product rebates is nothing new and noteworthy. But the rebate landscape is evolving and expanding to keep up with new technologies. Many co-op rebate programs now often include smart thermostats, home EV chargers, electric lawn mowers, and other less traditional items that benefit consumer-members and are — dare we say — really fun!

In addition to providing extensive rebate information via websites and other marketing materials, co-ops often get the word out about rebate opportunities and offerings by hosting giveaways for popular and exciting rebate-qualifying items.

Fort Collins-based electric cooperative Poudre Valley REA offers rebates for electric bicycles. In December, the co-op reported that a recent electric bicycle giveaway recipient was having the time of his life on the new e-bike he won in a drawing the co-op hosted.

Earlier this month, Mountain Parks Electric gave away an electric snowblower to one lucky consumer-member a who attended a community event hosted by the Granby-based electric co-op.

Mountain View Electric Association’s popular GO ELECTRIC! Outdoor Power Equipment Giveaway helps consumer-members make the switch to electric and promotes the Limon-based co-op’s rebate program. In its contests, the co-op gives away items that assist in taking care of outdoor residential spaces: Electric lawnmowers, trimmers, power washers, chainsaws and more.

The benefits to transitioning to electric products are endless — especially when replacing gasoline-powered equipment. Consumers who use electric equipment experience zero emissions when mowing their lawn, power washing their back deck or removing snow off their driveway after a big storm. The noise factor of many of these activities nearly goes away. While no one could ever really call any chainsaw “quiet,” electric options operate at 10-20 decibels quieter than the gas equivalent. Electric lawnmowers, however, are whisper quiet and offer a huge sigh of relief for the neighbors of the weekend warrior who loves to mow her lawn at 8 a.m. on Saturdays.

Check your inbox monthly for future Energy Innovations newsletters from CREA to stay up-to-date on Colorado electric co-op news and programs.

Electric Co-op Helps Ouray Go “Totally Green”

The City of Ouray is the most recent participant in San Miguel Power Association’s Totally Green program. CREA’s Energy Innovations newsletter reported on this program in January 2020, and Ouray joins other local businesses and government entities that consume 100% renewably-resourced electricity.

The Ridgway-based electric co-op typically fulfills its Totally Green program requirements with renewable energy from the open market. In this case, 100% of the city’s municipal electricity use is covered by the output of the Ouray Hydroelectric Plant.

SMPA members may voluntarily sign up for Totally Green and are charged an extra 1 cent per kilowatt-hour. The net proceeds from the City of Ouray’s contribution goes to the SMPA Green Fund that is used to develop locally-sourced, renewable energy projects. The Green Fund is also used to help the co-op give rebates to its consumer-members for energy efficiency and beneficial electrification upgrades and improvements.

Y-W Electric Installs New EV Charger

Earlier this month, Y-W Electric Association installed a ChargePoint EV charger in Akron. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held November 12 to celebrate this innovative step that supports EV infrastructure development on the eastern plains. The co-op’s goal is to “encourage more folks to obtain EVs, to contribute to the charging infrastructure to reduce range anxiety,” according to Y-W Member Service Manager Andy Molt.

The charger installation was made possible with funds from a Charge Ahead Colorado program grant through the Colorado Energy Office and funds from Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the electric co-op’s power supplier.

Hybrid Bucket Truck Joins United Power’s Fleet

A first-of-its-kind bucket truck joined United Power’s fleet.

The innovative, hybrid model bucket truck uses battery power to raise and lower the bucket as well as the bucket jib. It was debuted in September by the Brighton-based electric cooperative at the 2021 Utility Expo in Louisville, Kentucky.

The electric boom and jib (a small crane attached to the bucket, allowing line crews to lift heavy materials up to bucket height) provide a cleaner, quieter idle time. Not only does this save diesel fuel and reduce emissions, it will improve safety conditions for line crews, according to United Power Fleet Manager Bill Hottell. He said in a recent press release that it’s a safer option than a traditional truck because the bucket crew will have an easier time communicating with the ground crew without having to compete with the noise of an idling diesel engine.

The hybrid truck is assigned to the Carbon Valley Service Center to respond to outages on the west side of United Power’s service territory. People in the community can identify this new truck as the hybrid model because it was branded with green lightning graphics on the side.

Holy Cross Announces Completion of Solar Project

Primergy Solar, LLC, recently completed construction on the Pitkin Solar Project in the Roaring Fork Valley. The 5-megawatt installation consists of approximately 13,700 solar panels that include innovative bifacial panels and tracking systems.

Under a 25-year power purchase agreement, energy from this project will be sold to Holy Cross Energy. The Glenwood Springs-based electric cooperative estimates this solar site will generate enough electricity to power about 900 homes and will give consumer-members of the co-op access to locally-generated renewable energy.

HCE President and CEO Bryan Hannegan stated in recent press release that this project “is an important step on our journey to 100% clean energy.”

United Power Energizes School Generator

United Power recently installed a 625-kW diesel generator in its mountain service territory on the Gilpin County School District campus. This was done in partnership with the Gilpin County Office of Emergency Management.

The generator was installed by the Brighton-based electric cooperative to enhance safety for both the school and community members. Since the school district didn’t have a backup power option, Gilpin County was required to notify parents and send students home in the event of a power outage.

Not only will the generator help alleviate concerns for school administration and parents of students, Gilpin County Emergency Management can also activate the site as an emergency warming center during an extended outage in the area.

The generator runs on an ultra-clean, low sulfur Tier 4 diesel that incorporates advanced emission reduction technologies.

In addition to placing the generator, United Power also upgraded existing infrastructure to ensure the generator works well to power the entire school campus: school buildings, gym facilities, water storage and deliver systems, gym facilities and a day care center.

Innovative Microgrid Unveiled in Northern Colorado

Regular readers of this newsletter may remember the September 2020 edition that reported Fort Collins-based electric cooperative Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association was beginning work with community partners in Red Feather Lakes to build a microgrid.

Well, the new microgrid was officially unveiled earlier this month on October 7.

It consists of three main parts: a 140-kilowatt/446-kilowatt-hour Tesla Powerpack battery, a solar photovoltaic array and a 130-KW propane generator. Working together, these three assets meet the definition of a microgrid, as defined by the Department of Energy:  A group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources that act as a single, controllable entity with respect to the electric grid.

Red Feather Lakes is vulnerable to wildfires, high winds, winter storms and car accidents on its winding mountain roads — all of which can take out a power line and cause extended outages. The microgrid is expected be able to provide the community up to 8 hours of electricity when other parts of the grid are unavailable.

The microgrid serves Red Feather Lakes community members, the library, a post office, local businesses and more. Community members and critical services such as fire response, EMS and telecommunications will experience better energy management and increased resiliency and reliability thanks to this innovative project.

Coming together with the small, isolated mountain community, Poudre Valley REA is proud of this community-focused initiative made possible with support from its power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, and other national partners.

LPEA Tests Grid-Integrated Technologies

Durango-based electric cooperative La Plata Electric Association, in partnership with 4CORE (Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency), received access to funding through the Beneficial Electrification League to help local, income-qualified members obtain the latest electric water heating technology.

Select homes in the Animas View Mobile Home Park are now qualified to receive free installation of an air-source heat pump water heater and other energy efficiency measures, such as LED lighting, low-flow faucets and showerheads, and window and door weather stripping.

In addition to being remarkably efficient, the installed air-source heat pump water heaters will run on a schedule that avoids expensive peak power consumption. During times of peak electricity demand, LPEA will be able to remotely manage these water heaters, although this is expected to be a rare occurrence. This will not impact member homes (as water heaters store enough hot water for these short periods), and it will help LPEA avoid the purchase of expensive “on-peak” power from its power suppliers.

LPEA CEO Jessica Matlock said in a recent news release, “This innovative project will allow LPEA to test the viability of grid-integrated technologies to manage our local power demand.”

Participation in this program is voluntary, and the total number of homes included will depend on the matching funds LPEA is able to secure from other partners. This program will improve energy efficiency and is sure to reduce utility bills for residents. Installations are expected to begin February 2022.