Feds: Expect lower heating bills this winter

Winterheating250Consumers can expect to pay less this winter because of lower fuels costs and more moderate temperatures, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Oct. 6.

In its Winter Fuels Outlook, EIA also said residential heating bills will be at their lowest level in three years.

According to EIA, residential ratepayers who use electricity as their primary sources of warmth will spend an average of $930 on heating costs from October through March. That represents a decrease of $30 in average costs compared with the same period one year ago.

Electricity is the primary heating fuel in the South and is used extensively by consumer-members of the nation’s electric cooperatives. About 39 percent of all U.S. households rely on electricity for heat, ranging from 15 percent in the Northeast to 63 percent in the South, EIA said.

Natural gas users will spend an average of $578 on heating costs, or $64 less than last winter.

Propane costs for the average home using that fuel as a primary heating source will be about $322 lower at $1,437.

EIA analysts also noted a $459 decline in winter cost to $1,437 for average homes using heating oil.

Meteorologists at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration are forecasting winter temperatures 13 percent warmer in the Northeast, 11 percent warmer in the Midwest and 8 percent warmer in the South.

DMEA donates fresh 4-H meat to local food banks

DMEAmeatshare250Fresh food is a rare commodity at food banks, but two pantries in Colorado received a special treat recently when Tri-State member, Delta-Montrose Electric Association (Montrose, Colo.), donated hundreds pounds of fresh meat to help feed families in the region.

As shown in the photo to the left, DMEA board members Bill Patterson (left) and Kyle Martinez (right) helped delivered 320 pounds of lamb and pork to Michelle Overmyer of Sharing Ministries in Montrose. In addition, the co-op also donated about 350 pounds of bacon and sausage to the Hotchkiss Community Methodist Church Food Bank worth about $700.

The donated meat is farm fresh, straight from junior 4H Livestock shows at local county fairs. The co-op also paid a local plant to process the meat.

“This year, by donating the meat we were able to make our support go further in our community and impact members we may have not have reached before,” said Becky Mashburn, the co-op’s marketing and public relations administrator.

Sharon Teter, of the Hotchkiss Food Bank, said it will take about two months to distribute the meat; the bank serves about 340 families every two months in the four communities that it serves.

The remainder of the pork and sausage, which went to Montrose Sharing Ministries, is being distributed to local families in need. “We distribute one pound of meat per person, or two, if we have an abundance of meat, which isn’t very often,” said Kathi Crandall of the Montrose Sharing Ministries. “It’s very exciting when we get meat donated like we got from DMEA,” she added.


DOE has plan to double energy productivity by 2030

power-grid250The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has published a strategic plan designed to help meet the Obama administration’s goal of doubling the nation’s energy productivity within the next 15 years.

The report, “Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030: A Strategic Roadmap for American Energy Innovation, Economic Growth and Competitiveness (http://energy2030.org/roadmap),” posits that families will be able to power their homes and vehicles using less energy, while businesses boost manufacturing at a lower cost and reduce harmful emissions.

Strategies include having states secure energy productivity through vehicle and product codes and standards, providing energy performance information to consumers and redesigning energy rates and policies.

The plan calls for the federal government to invest in research and development in transportation, building and manufacturing sectors. At the state level, representatives can pursue policies to encourage greater energy efficiency; promote new and innovative financing for investments that support energy productivity and incentivize increased deployment of combined heat and power.

Electric utilities can modernize grid infrastructure through “smart grid investments and improving the efficiency and interoperability of generation,” the report finds, in addition to investments in transmission, storage and distribution.


Tri-Staters, co-ops pedal plains for fundraiser

PowerplainsteamLast weekend (Sept. 18-20), more than 800 bicycling enthusiasts turned out for Colorado’s fourth annual Pedal the Plains event that this year took riders on a 172-mile trek looping from the eastern plains towns of Julesburg to Holyoke to Sterling and back to Julesburg for the finish of the tour.

The Pedal the Plains is a celebration of Colorado’s agricultural roots and the state’s frontier heritage on the eastern plains. The bike route included education stops along the way at local farms, places to climb on machinery, opportunities to check out animals and time to celebrate Sugar Beet Days in Sterling.

Among the riders was the 17-member Powering the Plains bike team (pictured) comprised of staff and friends of Colorado’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, as well as Terri Marranzino-Ray and Jeff Lines from Tri-State. According to Mona Neeley, director of communications for Colorado Rural Electric Association, the team helped raise more than $3,000 for Energy Outreach Colorado, which provides assistance to Colorado’s neediest families and seniors for their home energy needs. Donations are being accepted through Oct. 15.

In addition to the fundraiser, Colorado’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives also co-sponsored this successful event. Among this year’s electric co-ops supporting the bike tour were Highline Electric Association, K.C. Electric Association, Morgan County REA, Mountain View Electric Association, Poudre Valley REA and San Isabel Electric Association.


Tri-State among utilities seeking rail reform with new alliance

LRS2013250The highly profitable U.S. freight railroad industry, operating in what some call a renaissance, will be facing more organized customers who are not happy with the cost they’re paying and the service they’re getting.

A national organization for freight rail shippers announced a new name, ambitions for a broader range of members, which now includes Tri-State, and new hopes for reforming federal regulatory policies that apply to railroads they think are taking advantage.

The new Freight Rail Customer Alliance (FRCA) is for those in all industries working to improve access to reliable rail service at competitive prices, said David Sauer, who is president of the alliance and also CEO and senior vice president of Dakota Gasification Co., a North Dakota subsidiary of Basin Electric Power Cooperative in Bismarck.

The customer alliance website throws down the challenge: “The lack of competitive transportation options for rail-dependent shippers has forced them to pay monopoly rates and often receive unreliable service. The costs of rail shipping have skyrocketed, particularly for those shippers served by a single railroad. In fact, since 2003 – through one of the nation’s worst economic periods – freight rail rates in general have increased two and a half times the rate of inflation and two and a half times the level of truck rates. Rates for individual shippers served by a single railroad have increased even more. These unreasonably high rates are hurting our national economy by rendering certain producers and manufacturers uncompetitive, reducing the profits of American companies and driving up the cost of everything consumed by Americans from electricity to cereal.”

Among the members of FRCA, are Basin Electric, Tri-State and Lincoln Electric System, which share in the ownership of the 1,710-megawatt Laramie River Station (pictured). The Wheatland, Wyo., generating plant has only one option for the delivery of coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, the BNSF Railway.

Tri-State has a 24-percent capacity ownership in Laramie River Station. More information can be found on FRCA’s website at www.railvoices.org.


United Power, Tri-State assist with efficient lighting for nonprofit riding center

CTRC250The Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center (CTRC), a nonprofit organization based in Longmont that is devoted to changing the lives of people with disabilities by promoting equine assisted activities, was recently retrofitted with high efficiency LED light bulbs throughout their facility.

This project was made possible with funding from Tri-State member United Power, Tri-State’s Energy Efficiency Products (EEP) incentive program, rebates from Boulder County’s Clean Environment Program and Elevation Lighting Services Co., which donated the installation of the LED lights.

The project was spearheaded by United’s Bill Meier, who assists with energy efficiency upgrades and rebates for its membership.

“Initially, we noticed that the center could save a significant amount of money if they could afford a lighting upgrade, but with a limited budget, the project wasn’t their top priority,” said Meier. “But it’s not just about dollar savings when we work with our members. By working cooperatively with other community organizations to make a project like this happen, we can truly make life better for our members,” he added.

“Since the installation, staff members, volunteers and even the horses are seeing a difference,” said Heather McLaughlin,  CTRC program director. “The new lighting system has made the office environment more comfortable for families and the tack room is better illuminated, providing volunteers easier access to equipment. As for the horses at CTRC, they are striding into the arena a bit more confidently,” she said.

Funding for the project was derived from a $5,000 grant from United Power’s Operation Round-Up Foundation, a charitable organization funded by co-op members who “round-up” their electric bill to the next full dollar amount.

CTRC also received nearly $3,700 in rebates from Tri-State’s EEP program that provides incentives to member consumers of its 44 electric co-ops and public power districts who install energy efficient appliances and other equipment that helps them save money on their electric bills.

Boulder County’s Partners for a Clean Environment also provided nearly $4,900 in rebates to this community project.

Mountain Parks hosts renewable energy tour

In an effort to educate its members on the opportunities and advantages of installing renewable energy equipment at their homes or businesses, Tri-State member Mountain Parks Electric Association (Granby, Colo.),MP250tour hosted a Local Renewable Energy Tour on Aug. 26.

“Mountain Parks established a Green Power Board in 2011 that is comprised of four co-op consumers,” explained Rob Taylor, member services coordinator. “This board, which oversees our members’ local renewable projects, recommended a tour of some of our existing renewable customers to better inform its members on the types of renewable installations that are currently in use on our co-op lines,” he explained.

A total of 21 member guests, directors and Mountain Parks and Tri-State staff boarded a bus for a tour of three consumer member sites that featured photovoltaic solar, hot air solar panels, solar panels that track the sun and a small wind turbine.

The tour was jointly sponsored by Mountain Parks Electric and Simply Efficient, LLC, a Denver -based alternative energy consulting firm.

“We received very positive comments on the tour from our member participants and will likely schedule another tour of local member renewable projects in the near future,” added Taylor


Colowyo Mine Plan approved by U.S. Department of the Interior

  • Federal government completes court ordered review within 120-day deadline
  • New mine plan replaces challenged plan
  • Environmental assessment finds no significant environmental impact from mining operations

Colowyo251The U.S. Department of the Interior has approved and signed a modified mine plan for Colowyo Mine, which was subject to a federal district court order requiring the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) to update its environmental review of the mine.

In addition to the new mining plan, on August 31, 2015, the OSM completed a new environmental assessment for the mine, resulting in a finding of no significant impact on the environment from mining operations.

The approval of the new mine plan completes the effort by OSM to comply with the court’s May 8, 2015, order to complete the environmental review within 120 days. OSM’s counsel has notified the court that it has completed the environmental review and approved a modified mining plan.

“We are grateful to the staff at the Office of Surface Mining and the other cooperating agencies for their diligence and hard work to complete the environmental review within the short timeframe ordered by the judge,” said Mike McInnes, chief executive officer of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which owns Colowyo Mine through its subsidiary, Colowyo Coal Company.

“The unwavering support we have received from our 220 mine employees, the community and elected officials across Colorado helped ensure the Department of the Interior, from Secretary Jewell down, committed the resources and time necessary to complete this important work,” added McInnes.

Colowyo Coal Company believes the new mine plan allows the mine to continue to operate and the completion of the environmental assessment, finding of no significant impact and mine plan will satisfy the court, but it is uncertain how the court will proceed.

“The approval of the new plan should provide our employees and the residents of Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties with the confidence to move forward and focus on the future,” said Chris McCourt, Colowyo Mine’s manager.

Colowyo Coal Company is owned by Tri-State, which purchased the Colowyo Mine in 2011. Tri-State is a not-for-profit wholesale power supplier to 44 electric cooperatives and public power districts that serves 1.5 million members throughout 200,000 square-miles of Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Colorado’s Touchstone Energy co-ops help raise record $531,300 at livestock sale

Tylersteer250Cowboy and cowgirl hats are officially off to Colorado’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives who were among the sponsors of annual Junior Livestock Sale held Sept. 1 at the Colorado State Fair, which raised a record $531,300 benefitting Colorado’s youth involved in Future Farmers of America and 4-H programming.

Tri-State and its member Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are proud to be long-time supporters of this event and the 4-H and FFA organizations that are rooted in rural communities served by many of association’s 44 member cooperatives and public power districts.

The auction is the pre-eminent opportunity for young agriculturalists to literally see the value of their hard work. More than 90 steers, hogs lambs, goats, rabbits and chickens hit the auction block at the Southwest Motors Events Center in Pueblo.

Among this year’s participants was Tyler Camblin (pictured) of Holyoke, Colo. Tyler is the son of Kris Camblin, line superintendent for Tri-State member Highline Electric Association. His 1,293-pound steer, Diesel, won the division 4 category at the auction. The Denver Rustlers purchased the Camblin’s steer for $4,200, which his mother, Marla Camblin, says he will put towards his college education.

This year’s Junior Livestock Sale raised about $50,000 more than last year’s auction total of $481,200.

“This sale is the culmination of long hours and dedicated work of Colorado’s 4-H and FFA exhibitors. The participants are a showcase of tomorrow’s agricultural leaders,” said Chris Wiseman, state fair general manager.


Tri-State and juwi announce PPA for 30-megawatt solar project in southern Colo.

Solararray250Tri-State and juwi Inc., a Colorado-based renewable energy company, have announced a 25-year power purchase agreement to supply the utility with renewable energy from the planned San Isabel Solar Project to be constructed in southern Colorado.

Tri-State will purchase the entire output of the 30-megawatt solar farm over the life of the contract. The facility is expected to begin operation in the fourth quarter of 2016. The San Isabel Solar Project will consist of more than 100,000 photovoltaic solar panels sited on 250 acres of land in Las Animas County, located approximately 20 miles north of Trinidad, Colo.

The project lies within the service territory of Tri-State member San Isabel Electric Association (Pueblo West, Colo.).

San Isabel Electric’s general manager Reg Rudolph said, “San Isabel is very excited to work with juwi and Tri-State and honored to have our area selected for this solar farm. This project shows San Isabel Electric’s and Tri-State’s commitment to renewable energy and will also be a very positive development for the southern Colorado economy.”

This is the second renewable energy purchase agreement for Tri-State this year, following the June announcement of the 76-megawatt, Twin Buttes II Wind Project south of Lamar, Colo. In 2014, 24 percent of the energy Tri-State and its member systems delivered to cooperative members was generated from renewable resources – one of the top ratios among electric utilities nationwide. In February, the U.S. Department of Energy recognized Tri-State and San Isabel Electric as the 2014 Wind Cooperatives of the Year.

Colorado attorney general to join in suit on Obama’s Clean Power Plan

flagCO250Colorado has joined the growing list of states that will sue the Environmental Protection Agency to stop the implementation of President Barack Obama’s controversial Clean Power Plan.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said the lawsuit challenging the EPA’s authority represents “crucial litigation” against the measure first proposed last year. More than 20 states are expected to be part of the filing.

“We have been looking at (the plan) and evaluating whether or not there is such an impact on Colorado that we needed to put our name on a lawsuit,” Coffman, a Republican, said in an interview recently with the Denver Post. “We just determined this week that is exactly where we need to be.”

The Clean Power Plan targets existing coal-burning power plants to cut carbon emissions nationwide by 32 percent before 2030 against 2005 levels.

In Colorado, the plan calls for a 28 percent reduction in overall carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 against 2012 levels.

“if you make a change like the one we will see if this rule is implemented, I think it has the potential to cost jobs,” Coffman said. “I think it will impact the rates that we pay for our electricity. And I think it impacts the rights of our state government to make these decisions about how electricity is delivered.”


TVA seeks to license the first U.S. nuclear reactor of this century

TVAnuc250The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) requested an operating license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the 1,150 MW Watts Bar nuclear facility unit 2. It would be the first nuclear reactor to go online in the U.S. since unit 1 in 1996.

The license request signals the completion of comprehensive testing that demonstrates unit 2’s operational readiness. Because TVA’s license request to the NRC lists other tasks necessary to demonstrate the facility is ready and safe, it is unclear when the facility will be commissioned.

Construction on unit 2 was begun in January 1973, during the big U.S. turn toward nuclear power. It was put on hold several times in the interim when U.S. energy demand flattened and when the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima incidents forced reconsideration of NRC standards.

In April 2012, the TVA board reviewed multiple cost overruns and delays, imposed a $4.2 billion budget, and targeted the end of 2015 for operations to begin. The project is now 99% complete and, based on those revisions, “is on time and on budget,” according to TVA President Bill Johnson.

First U.S. offshore windfarm under construction

Firsttowers250Last month, American offshore wind developer, Deepwater Wind installed the first foundation for what is expected to be the first offshore wind farm in the United States. The project will be located three miles southeast of Block Island, Rhode Island.

With five turbines totaling 30 megawatts of generation capacity, the Block Island Wind Farm is expected to be operational in 2016 and would be the initial and smallest of three offshore projects that Deepwater Wind is planning along the Atlantic Coast.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, Colo.) estimates that the U.S. has  4,200 gigawatts of developable offshore wind potential, compared to its estimate of 11,000 gigawatts of onshore potential. Wind resources are classified on a scale of zero to seven based on their power density, and more than 66 percent of offshore wind in the U.S. is in wind power class six or seven. In addition, offshore wind turbines are built to take advantage of the more consistent wind speeds present over the ocean, allowing higher utilization of electricity generation capacity when compared with similarly sized onshore wind turbines.

Volunteer linemen needed in Haiti next month

Haitipic250The National Rural Electric Association’s (NRECA) International Foundation has asked for our help in putting out a call for volunteer Class A certified journeymen linemen to travel to Haiti between Sept. 5-29 to assist in bringing electricity to the rural communities of this Caribbean nation.

In 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake brought massive destruction to the island country, killing more than 230,000 people, injuring 300,000 and leaving more than a million inhabitants homeless.

If you are a qualified lineman, have availability between Sept 5-29, the NRECA International Foundation needs your help in Haiti. No previous international experience is necessary. If you are interested or would like to learn more about this program, contact Maria Wimsatt at maria.wimsatt@nreca.coop or call 703-907-5645.

The NRECA International Foundation is the charitable arm of NRECA and helps to bring electricity and its inherent benefits to the people of rural areas in developing countries.

The foundation delivers electricity to developing countries by coordinating and supporting co-op employees throughout the U.S. Co-ops participate by sending employees who volunteer their skills, donating used vehicles and electric equipment and providing funding.


DMEA using prepay to help past-due members

DMEA250Past-due accounts are a sore spot for utilities. But one Tri-State member co-op found an innovative way to help members pay off what they owe and get on a sound financial footing.

The offer is this: Sign up for My Choice prepaid metering and you’ll be eligible for help with past-due balances.

“If a member comes in with a disconnect notice they have the option to pay in full for their power to be turned back on, or enroll in the My Choice program,” said Becky Mashburn, marketing and public relations administrator at Delta-Montrose Electric Association (Montrose, Colo.).

“A member can roll over up to $500 of their past-due balance onto My Choice. As they put money on their account 30 percent goes to pay off the old balance and 70 percent goes to the purchase of new electricity,” Mashburn said.

Prepay, she added, “offers a permanent solution for eliminating the fees that can add up when members get behind—late fees, disconnect fees, and reconnect fees. With My Choice, there are no fees, and members are able to be take control of their energy costs, rather than falling further behind.”

Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC), a non-profit providing energy assistance to low-income residents, has committed $100,000 to help DMEA members transition to prepay.

Members signing up for My Choice are eligible to receive EOC funds to reduce past-due balances. EOC money can also cover the $140 cost of the My Choice in-home display, a device that has dual benefits.

“It is the best and easiest way for members to see what they are using and receive notifications about their account balance. This leads to energy efficiency because members become more aware of how much energy they are using daily, and make behavioral changes to lower their usage,” said Mashburn.

The co-op is also partnering with its local Health and Human Service Departments to promote My Choice as a solution for people who chronically struggle with past-due balances.

Pedal the Plains with Colorado’s electric co-ops

Pedalplains250Register now to join Colorado’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives as they participate in the Pedal the Plains event next month.

The annual 172-mile bike ride around northeastern Colorado will be held Sept. 18-20, looping from Julesburg to Holyoke to Sterling and back to Julesburg. Now in its fourth year, the tour is expected to draw 1,200 riders and their support teams to northeastern Colorado, where the rural areas are served by electric co-ops.

The ride includes educational stops along the route that teach riders about the agricultural roots and frontier heritage of the eastern plains of the Centennial State.  There will be opportunities to stop at farms along the route, places to climb on machinery, chances to check out the animals and time to celebrate Saturday night Sugar Beet Days in Sterling.

The co-ops, which are among the supporters for the ride, will also sponsor bike team riding under the “Powering the Plains” banner.  This team will raise money for Energy Outreach Colorado. To pledge your support for the team’s worthy cause visit poweringtheplains.coop. To sign up for the ride contact Colorado Country Life’s associate editor Donna Wallin at dwallin@coloradocountrylife.org.

When Relying On The Sun, Energy Storage Remains Out Of Reach

PTW image1The ability to store energy could revolutionize the way we make and use electricity. But for many utility companies and regular folks, energy storage is still way out of reach. It’s expensive — sometimes more expensive than building out old-fashioned infrastructure like power lines and power plants. [Read more]

What EPA Rule Means for Co-ops

combine_images-240x148EPA has tweaked some parts of its first-ever greenhouse gas rules on power plants, but NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson says they still go too far, too fast. [Read more]


Telcom team stays sharp with continuous training

telecom250Safety is always a key area of focus for Tri-State, as evidenced through the continuous safety training Tri-State teams complete. And in support of that goal, the telecommunications crews recently completed their annual telecom tower rescue certification.

“The tower rescue training is required before the teams can work on the towers,” said Jaime Leal, transmission maintenance manager, east.

Over the course of two weeks, teams from each of the regions came together for small-group training on the rescue techniques they would use in the event there was an emergency while a team member was on the tower.

The training was a success, thanks to the teamwork of Marty Burrier, field training specialist; the telecom maintenance superintendents from all regions: Joey Livingston from the east, Tommy Chavez from the south and Jerry Quinn from the west; and all of the participants.

Tom Penner, journey level lineman, and Clint White, field training specialist, also contributed to the training, having recently conducted Tri-State’s fall protection training for the transmission maintenance teams.

“Tom and Clint came out to help everyone get comfortable with the new rescue devices—helping everyone to be more efficient and safe,” said Leal.

Carousel Wind Farm taking shape

CarouselrevisedMost people have seen wind turbines from a distance, but until you get up close and personal to one of these behemoths it is hard to appreciate its scale. Shown is the final assembly of one of the 87 General Electric wind turbines that will comprise the 150-megawatt Carousel Wind Farm now under construction near Burlington, Colo.

In terms of actual size the wind tower base alone measures approximately 240 feet in height and the blades that you see on the rotor being lifted into place are about 150 feet long.

As of late July, The Carousel Wind Farm construction is slightly ahead of schedule, according to owner/operators of the facility, NextEra Energy Resources (Juno Beach, Fla.).  “We are on track for completion of this site before the end of the year,” said Charles Gauger, project manager with NextEra Energy Resources.

The 34,000-acre, Carousel wind site is located entirely in the service territory of Tri-State member K.C. Electric Association. The project is named for the fully restored historic landmark carousel that is located in the town of Burlington.

Once the wind project begins commercial operation, Tri-State will receive the entire generation output of the facility under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

Tri-Stater among DBJ’s ‘Top Women in Energy’

SHunterpicrevEarlier this month, the Denver Business Journal published an article announcing the “Top Women in Energy” for 2015. Tri-State’s Susan Hunter, business development manager, was among the honorees this year. Hunter is recognized for her work with conventional and renewable electric generation projects.

Hunter was chosen based on her expertise, leadership and personal commitment to her community. She has been recognized because of her success in leading and implementing renewable energy projects. Her contract negotiations have led to almost 400 megawatts of new renewable generation in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, and she continues to build relationships and expand Tri-State’s renewable portfolio.

“I get to see projects being built, and see them in motion. It’s tangible. I like that aspect of my job,” Hunter told the Denver Business Journal.

This is the second year that the Denver Business Journal has recognized 40 women who are influencing Denver’s energy sector. Hunter was nominated by last year’s Tri-State honoree, Gigi Dennis.

LAT panel offers insight into member system operations

July-LATrevisedWhile each of Tri-State’s 44 member systems works toward the goal of providing reliable, affordable electricity for its members, all face unique challenges on the way to that goal. And at the July 13 Leaders as Teachers session, held at headquarters in Westminster, Colo., Tri-State employees gained a little more insight into the challenges and rewards the leaders of our member systems face.

Matthew Collins (pictured left) of Central New Mexico Electric Cooperative (CNMEC), Mark Farnsworth (pictured right) of Highline Electric Association in Colorado and Tim Lindahl (center of photo) of Wheat Belt Public Power District in Nebraska spent an hour providing an overview of their individual cooperatives, as well as their take on changes in the industry.

Looking at demographics, CNMEC employs 70 people and serves primarily a residential load. With 52 employees, Highline has irrigation as the majority of its load. And with a lean staff of just 27 employees, Wheat Belt serves one-third irrigation, one-third industrial, and one-third everything else, with an average of two miles of line per customer. But despite their unique features, each member system came back to a key theme – the importance of serving both members and employees while responding to the ever-changing industry.

Leaders as Teachers is a monthly noontime program featuring speakers and sometimes panels of people who provide unique insights into the various issues and topics of interest in the electric industry. All Tri-State employees have an opportunity to see and hear the presentations either on site or remotely.

Co-op youth camp kicks off with Broncos player appearance

BlogyouthTri-State and its Touchstone Energy Cooperatives decided to bring a little added team spirit to the opening day of the week-long (July 12-17) 2015 Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp near Steamboat Springs, Colo., by helping to arrange a brief appearance by Ben Garland, Denver Broncos’ starting left guard, who was more than happy to talk the nearly 100 teen campers about his impressive career journey.

Garland talked about growing up in a small rural Colorado community, his military career in the Air Force and his plans to help the Broncos win the Super Bowl.  His overall message to the campers: “Never count yourself out no matter what the odds. Set your sights on a goal and with dedication and commitment you will achieve that goal.”

The kids attending this year’s youth camp are 16-years old and over and are selected by their local electric co-ops in the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming. The electric co-ops shoulder 100 percent of the cost of the kids attending the camp. In addition, employees of the sponsoring co-ops, including Tri-State staff, assist in organizing activities, putting on presentations and other support-related duties during the week.

Natural gas generation exceeds coal for first time in U.S.

Revisedshafer2New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show the United States is continuing to shift away from coal-fired generation and for the first time ever in April produced more power from natural gas. The latest figures show gas-fired plants around the country produced 92,516 gigawatt-hours in April compared to 88,835 gigawatt-hours of coal generation.

Driven by low gas prices and a slew of carbon regulations taking coal plants offline, coal’s year-over-year April production declined 18.9 percent, very similar to gas’ 20.6 percent increase.

Nuclear generation saw a 6 percent boost in generation over the past year.

Although power from gas generation increased more than 20 percent year-over-year, the real winner may be solar energy, which EIA reported increased almost 60 percent in the last year.

Total renewable generation, on an annual basis, has risen from about 358,000 gigawatt-hours in 2005 to 540,000 gigawatt-hours in 2014.

Fitch: Court’s Mercury Ruling Has Limited Impact

TVA-Cumberland-plant-240x157The Supreme Court’s decision admonishing the Environmental Protection Agency for sidestepping the costs of its mercury regulations will have limited impact on electric cooperatives and public power utilities, Fitch Ratings says.

The Supreme Court’s mercury ruling is likely to have limited real-world impact on coal-based power plants, Fitch Ratings says.

The ratings service said July 1 that most public power and electric cooperatives that it tracks already have complied with the 3-year-old rule or are taking steps to do so. [Read more]


Transmission West hosts demonstration of rope access live-line maintenance

Kyleonharness (2)On June 30, with temperatures in the high 90s, Tri-State’s Montrose-based line maintenance crews (as well as Cheyenne-based personnel) climbed into their bare hand suits and scaled a 150-foot steel transmission tower on the association’s Montrose to Grand Junction, 345-kV line to replace a broken insulator string and demonstrate rope access live-line procedures to visiting utility personnel, including two guests from as far away as England.

Tri-State’s line crews are among the industry leaders in this unique procedure, which is used primarily in situations where the rugged terrain at a site doesn’t allow for the use of aerial bucket trucks and other ground support equipment typically used in tansmission line maintenance.

“The main difference in this rope access procedure of live-line work is that instead of our crews working out of a bucket truck or off of a hot stick ladder they are dangling from a rope harness in the air to conduct their work,” explained Mac Fellin, West-side transmission maintenance manager.  “Ultimately this procedure is safer than the conventional method, reduces time in setup and preparation and results in lower maintenance costs overall,” he added.

Attendees at the demonstration included transmission personnel from Western Area Power Administration, Salt River Project, Bonneville Power Administration, Nebraska Public Power District and two linemen from National Grid Company, based in England.

Brokaw reflects on rural electric cooperatives’ role in innovation

BrokawAt the luncheon preceding the National Cooperative Services Corporation (NCSC) Annual Meeting during CFC Forum 2015, legendary newsman and best-selling author Tom Brokaw addressed the crowd and shared his thoughts on our nation’s history and the underlining theme of “Big Ideas” throughout our past.

“America―the United States―represents the greatest ‘big idea’ in mankind” Brokaw said. “We are the most innovative country, finding a way to get to the next place by working together.”

Rural electric cooperatives have played a role in that history of innovation and will continue to do so, Brokaw noted.

“You [in this room] really represent the essence of America. You come from heartland America, you provide extraordinary services and you work together cooperatively,” Brokaw said. “You do represent the future of this country. Not just the past, but where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.”

Brokaw discussed some of our nation’s most influential and important big ideas, from Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence to John F. Kennedy and the race to the moon with the Soviet Union. His vast personal experience as a reporter, being a witness to “big ideas” like the civil rights movement and fall of the Berlin Wall, provided deeper meaning to his personal narrative.

In looking ahead, Brokaw projected that the next election will play a pivotal role in future of our nation, as it may “Kick-start the American dream, kick-start the next big idea.”

For our nation’s future success, Brokaw stressed the importance of education and public service. Americans acquiring technical skills to incorporate into their careers will “change the equation of public service in America,” he said.

Youth Tour brings Colorado students to Tri-State and on to Washington, D.C

wp3-250x166Last week more than 30 high school students from Colorado’s co-op service territories gathered at United Power to kick off the 2015 Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. The Youth Tour is an opportunity for young men and women living in co-op service territories to learn about the importance of electric cooperatives.

This year, the students had one day to meet and learn about how electricity is generated and distributed before heading to Washington, D.C. for a week-long gathering with 1,700 other youth from all over the country.

At United Power, the Colorado Rural Electric Association (CREA) coordinated presentations about electricity distribution, and the linemen put on an informative electrical safety presentation. Tri-State’s communications coordinator, Michelle Pastor, spoke about electricity distribution, how power is generated and transmitted and finally how it gets to homes from the power plant.

The students then put their knowledge to the test by competing in a “Building a Crafty Electric System” activity, where they had to build a power system using pipe cleaners, marshmallows and popsicle sticks and other crafty items to show how generation, transmission, and finally distribution to homes occurs at a power plant.

For the last part of the tour, the students were taken to the state capitol building and visited Tri-State to have dinner and listen to Senator Beth Martinez Humenik speak about the process in which bills are passed by the Senate. To finish the night, they were given a tour of the Tri-State operations center to get a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to work at an electric cooperative before heading to Washington, D.C. the next morning.

“It was a pleasure to work with the students. They asked great questions throughout the day and were very creative when it came time to design their own electric system” said Pastor.

This year marks the 51st Youth Tour, which began in 1964 and has since had more than 50,000 participants.

Snakes, Birds and Power Outages

snake-on-transformer250Spring floods and hungry broods are bringing more snakes and birds in contact with electric cooperative power causing outages for consumer-members. [Read more]






2015 NRECA Youth Tour in Full Swing

nreca-youth-tour-rally-2015250More than 1,700 young electric cooperative members are visiting the nation’s capital to help members of Congress put human faces on issues facing rural America. [Read more]