GCEA Breaks Ground on New Hydroelectric Project

GCEA broke ground for the development of the Taylor River Hydropower plant at the base of the Taylor Park Dam on May 31. The hydropower facility’s nameplate capacity is 500 kilowatts, placing it within the “small hydro” scale. Small hydro powers local communities and contributes to a regional grid. According to GCEA Strategy Execution Specialist Matt Feier, this project could result in the production of 3.9 million kilowatt-hours each year, which is about the same amount of energy as 2,500-kilowatt fixed-tilt solar arrays. The plant will generate enough electricity to power approximately 475 GCEA-served homes every year. GCEA has been working to diversify its supply portfolio by adding environmentally friendly, sustainable resources that are in accordance with the terms and conditions with its wholesale power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. All energy generated at this hydroelectric facility will be distributed to members of GCEA members, making this an exciting new development for the community.

GCEA partnered with the Uncompaghre Valley Water Users Association to bring this project to life, a venture that has been several years in the making. GCEA and UVWUA signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2020 to form a jointly owned entity called Taylor River Hydro LLC to develop, own, and operate the plant. The Taylor Park Dam was originally built to accommodate a hydroelectric generation facility when it was constructed in 1937, though one has never been implemented until now. The dam is owned by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and is operated by the UVWUA; maintenance and operation responsibilities will be handled by GCEA. The hydroelectric facility is expected to operate at full capacity 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year, not including occasional downtime for maintenance and repairs. The Taylor River Hydropower project was originally slated to be finished in late 2023, but now has an expected completion date of mid-February 2024.

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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.

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.”

Colorado Co-op Works to Bring EVs to Low-Income Rural Areas

San Isabel Electric, headquartered in Pueblo West, joined the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and 16 other electric cooperatives to apply for $8 million in federal grants to bring electric vehicles to low-income rural communities.

Most of the proposed co-op projects would install public EV charging stations at key locations such as low-income apartment complexes, medical facilities, parks and highway corridors, said Brian Sloboda, NRECA’s director of consumer solutions.

“In some cases, these would be the first public chargers that anyone in the community has ever seen,” he said.

The DOE will fund 50% of the cost of the projects, leaving co-ops and any community partners to pay the rest. The agency will announce a maximum of five winners at the end of the highly competitive process in October. The co-ops are competing as one unit, rather than as individual businesses, with NRECA as the project leader.

“I don’t think you can find another team that represents such a diverse group of utilities, projects and communities and that meets the ambitious goals of the Department of Energy,” Sloboda said.
Despite increasing interest in EV charging by for-profit companies, “few companies are building this infrastructure and trying to grow EVs in the rural areas except these non-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives,” he said.

“It’s a long-haul investment that’s not going to pay off overnight,” Sloboda said. “This is where we need the leadership from the DOE in recognizing the needs of these underserved rural communities. Without co-ops working with the DOE, we probably won’t see rapid progress.”

Morgan County REA Announces Home EV Charger Rebate

Morgan County REA was excited to announce that it recently issued its first rebate for an EV Level 2 home charger installed in its service territory. An MCREA consumer-member purchased a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and asked the Fort Morgan-based electric cooperative to assist with finding home charging solutions.

MCREA offers rebates of 50% of the charging equipment cost, up to $250 to help offset expenses when its consumer-members install home charging equipment.

Installing a Level 2 charger at home can often provide a full charge by plugging in the EV overnight, which helps EV drivers avoid costlier Level 3 fast charging station fees.

Holy Cross Energy Announces Hydro Project

In a June 23 press release, electric cooperative Holy Cross Energy announced a new power purchase agreement with Grand Valley Hydro, LLC. The project is owned by Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and Grand Valley Water Users Association and will make up nearly 2% of HCE’s annual energy requirements.

The Glenwood Springs-based co-op will receive 22,380 megawatt hours of energy each year from this PPA. This is enough energy to power up to 1,700 average-sized homes per year, according to HCE’s Power Supply Manager Sam Whelan.

This PPA is HCE’s next step in its 100×30 goal to provide its consumers with 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030.

New Solar Farm Supports High School Energy Academy

United Power and Silicon Ranch recently dedicated a new solar farm in the northern Colorado town of Mead just a few miles from Mead High School, home to the Mead Energy Academy. The Academy is a unique and innovative program that offers a secondary public education concentrated on the principles of energy, while students earn their high school diploma. The 75,960 panel solar farm is named “Mavericks Solar Farm,” after the high school’s mascot.

The Mead Energy Academy, sponsored in part by United Power, NEED and Silicon Ranch, prepares students for college studies, technical education, certification programs and the workforce and courses include bioengineering, technologies, conservation and sustainability, fossil fuels, hydropower and fuel cells, solar and wind power.

United Power hopes the solar farm will expand its “green” footprint and will create educational opportunities for students to learn more about the role solar energy plays in a diversified energy mix.

Mavericks Solar Farm will supply over 61 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually while serving over 1250 homes.


Electric Co-op Brings Solar to High Schools

Solar Energy International’s Solar in the Schools program secured funding recently when Montrose-based Delta-Montrose Electric Association committed $150,000 to the program, contributing the money from the co-op’s unclaimed capital credit fund to support the installation of solar electric systems at five high schools within its territory.

As a member-owned cooperative, DMEA returns excess revenue back to its members in the form of capital credits. In some cases, DMEA is unable to locate members who have moved away from the service territory or passed away. After five and a half years, capital credits that remain unclaimed are transferred to a fund for charitable and educational purposes.

SEI’s Solar in the Schools program works in local schools to provide science, technology, engineering and math or STEM training while focusing on renewable energy. SEI provides technical assistance in the design and installation of the 10 kilowatt solar photovoltaic systems at Delta High School, Hotchkiss High School, Cedaredge High School, Olathe High School and Montrose High School.

Through the program, students will be involved in various steps of the project, including determining the best site, design and construction of the system. The sites will most likely begin after school is back in session for the 2017-2018 school year.


Two EnergyWise Awards Presented at the Colorado Science Fair

Projects focused on electricity were honored at the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair thanks to CREA and the financial support of CoBank. The 62nd annual statewide science fair at Colorado State University in Fort Collins included more than 300 projects created by students in grades 6 through 12 from across the state. As a sponsor of the EnergyWise Award, the Colorado Rural Electric Association was represented by Stuart Travis, a member of the CREA board from Y-W Electric in Akron. Travis served as the judge for the special EnergyWise Award, and as a former state science fair exhibitor himself, he enjoyed quizzing the students exhibiting at this year’s fair and learning about their projects.

Winners this year are middle schooler Tate Schrock, a 7th grader at Arickaree School in Anton, and high school students Michelle Ren and Julianna O’Clair, who are 10th graders at Brush High School in Brush. Tate’s project was titled “H2 and O2 Generator Fabrication & PEM Fuel Cell Efficiency,” and it documented a successfully-built H2 and O2 generator that split water molecules to be used in a fuel cell as another way to create renewable energy.

Michelle and Julianna titled their project “Energy Production of Microbial Fuel Cells,” studying how microbes from the soil or wastewater can generate electricity and showed how adding a salt or sugar solution to the process increases output.

Both of these projects were awarded a special certificate and a $250 prize. The students will also be invited to exhibit their projects at the CREA Energy Innovations Summit in October.

Co-op Solar Spring Break 2017

Grand Valley Power in Grand Junction, GRID Alternatives and the Colorado Energy Office announced the development of the third phase of a low-income solar project at Grand Valley Power’s Community Solar Array.

Through a partnership between GVP and GRID, the first phase of this 29 kW solar array was installed in 2015, which was the first of its kind in the nation. A second array was installed in late 2015. GVP’s Chief Executive Officer Tom Walch stated at the time, “In the grand scheme of things, a 29-kilowatt solar array serving six to 10 families is a small project. But I like to think that this is a big idea — one that can be replicated at utilities across the state and across the nation.”

GRID received a $1.2 million CEO grant in August 2015 to partner with utilities to implement low-income community solar as part of a statewide initiative. Since GVP’s first installation with GRID, five other Colorado rural electric cooperatives and one municipal utility have partnered with GRID and CEO to pilot a slight variation on the low-income community solar model developed by GVP. Development of the third phase of GVP’s Community Solar Array will mark the seventh such project built as part of the initiative. At the end of the two-year grant period, more than 1 megawatt of solar generation directly benefiting more than 300 Colorado families will be installed.

What separates this phase of the GVP Community Solar project from previous phases is this year, students from Beloit College in Wisconsin spent their spring break installing the solar array. Beloit College is one of three schools involved in GRID’s Campus Chapter pilot program, Solar Spring Break. The students spent March 6-8 learning about solar system design and solar policy. From March 9-10, the group installed a ground-mounted community solar system at the GVP site. This was an opportunity for students to experience hands-on solar industry workforce training with GRID, America’s largest non-profit solar installer.

With this completed phase, the partnership between GVP and GRID installed enough solar to benefit at least 35 Grand Valley Power members who need it the most over the next 20 years.