Rio Rancho’s Award-Winning Transmission Maintenance Team

Tri-State’s Transmission Maintenance South Team based out of the Rio Rancho office recently celebrated 97,348 employee hours without a lost-time case – spanning an entire year from late March 2015-2016. To honor this achievement, the National Safety Council presented the team with a Perfect Record Award.

This team has several processes in place to keep safety top-of-mind and their commitment to this cause continually improves the environment for all employees. They meet weekly and monthly for training and adhere to the SafeStart program to make sure all employees are ready to work and focused on the task at hand.

We’d like to congratulate Rio Rancho’s Transmission Maintenance Team on their success and wish them luck on another year free of injury!

Award-winning transmission maintenance team

Rio Rancho Transmission Maintenance South Team

A bright new way to offer rebates

Relight Mountain Village Project

Power with an LED light bulbLate last year, the town of Mountain Village and San Miguel Power Association (SMPA) chose a unique solution when offering their residents rebate savings on LED bulbs. The Town designed a website for the Relight Project, preprogramming the page with SMPA member account numbers along with rebate program rules and regulations.

Residents could visit the completed page to place an order for LED light bulbs using their member account number. SMPA collected orders over a four-week period and reviewed the transactions before submitting the order to Tri-State Generation & Transmission for processing. The LED light bulbs arrived to Mountain Village in one shipment and were distributed at a central location on a designated pick-up day or left at the Town Hall for residents to pick up.

San Miguel County Greenlights Program

San Miguel Power Association (SMPA) received such positive feedback from the Relight program, they extended a similar one to all of San Miguel County (including Telluride and Ridgway) called Greenlights. They used a unique website preloaded with rebate rules and member account numbers to handle LED light bulb purchases. One key difference between Greenlights and Relight was the frequency that orders were processed – for Greenlights this happened weekly instead of at the end of the four-week purchase cycle.

Both programs enjoyed a successful run that resulted in about 150 residents receiving rebate checks for their purchase of LED light bulbs. Consider speaking with your Member Relations Manager if your co-op is looking for new or innovative rebate ideas!

Raising funds for The Festival of Hope

For over ten years, Chimney Rock Public Power District (CRPPD) customers facing cancer have reached out to The Festival of Hope for help paying their mortgage or rent and utility bills. This year CRPPD gave back to The Festival of Hope by raising over $2,000 in a community raffle.

The Festival of Hope is a volunteer organization that helps cancer patients in the Regional West Medical Center service area pay their non-medical expenses. Gifts such as these allow patients and their families an opportunity to focus their time and finances on getting well.

If you’d like to donate your time or make a contribution to The Festival of Hope, the next event is scheduled for Saturday June 18 at the Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds in Mitchell, Nebraska. Visit their website for a full event schedule or for information on how to volunteer. If you or someone you know in the Panhandle or eastern Wyoming is facing cancer and needs financial assistance, The Festival of Hope may be able to help. Use the links provided in this piece to visit their website for details on applying, FAQs and contact information.

Empire Electric Delivers Rebates

What happens when Empire Electric and their member-owners work together? A whole lot of savings!

Recently Empire Electric’s General Manager Josh Dellinger and Engineer Wendell Fry visited three members, presenting them with rebate checks for installing energy efficient equipment. This new equipment is going to lower energy usage and electric bill for years to come. Let’s take a closer look at what these three members chose for their efficiency upgrades.

Montezuma-Cortez High School

High school receives rebate check from Empire Electric

Empire Electric General Manager Josh Dellinger presents the rebate check to M-CHS Superintendent Alex Carter

The Montezuma-Cortez High School (M-CHS) installed a Ground Source Heat Pump in the new school building. M-CHS received $69,200 from Empire Electric and Tri-State Generation & Transmission, for a total rebate of $138,400. Heat transfer in the system is so good they were able to reduce the number of wells, and the entire operation can be managed by computer, iPad or phone.

M-CHS Superintendent Alex Carter noted, “The rebates are incredible and a real game changer for us.” He also noted that this building was designed not just for today but for the future as well. The school has received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Status – meaning it is an energy efficient and environmentally friendly building at its core. “The community really delivered when it decided to provide our students this incredible building,” added Carter.

Ground source heat pumps at Montezuma-Cortez High School

Nunn Construction Senior Project Manager Rick Fleming shows Josh Dellinger one of the four penthouses that enclose the ground source heat pumps. This system is computerized, maintaining a constant temperature between 72 and 74 degrees in the classrooms.

In addition to the ground source heat pump, the school also boasts a 50kW solar installation, solar lighting tubes, and LED lighting powered by automatic dimmer controls. M-CHS is not just at the forefront of energy technology, they also have the direct needs of students in mind. Principal Jayson Wayman demonstrated classroom technology that allows all classroom speech and writing to be recorded – so students who miss a class can catch up online with the same materials that were presented to their peers.

 

Ute Mountain Travel Center & Casino

Ute Mountain Travel Center & Casino

One of the new LED lights outside the Casino entrance

The Ute Mountain Travel Center and Casino installed LED lighting for their parking lot. General Manager Bob Brooker said, “The new lighting really makes a big impression on our guests, they feel safer because its so much brighter.” The Travel Center and Casino now has more efficient lighting which saves them money on the monthly electric bill. Empire General Manager Josh Dellinger presented them with a check for $11,603.

 

Kokopelli Bike & Board

Empire electric gives rebate to Cortez business

A few of the bikes Kokopelli’s offers to mountain biking enthusiasts.

Following the advice of contractor Aco Electric and Empire Engineer Wendell Fry, Kokopelli Bike & Board of Cortez improved their store lighting with LED fixtures. They now have brighter lighting for their customers and use fewer lights at a lower cost. Pete Eschallier received a rebate check of $2,878.50. Kokopelli’s enjoys a much lower energy bill than before LED lighting – saving a quarter of the amount each month.

Tri-State G&T presents public comments about coal leases on federal lands

Reclaimed land at ColoWyo Mine in Craig, Colorado.

Reclaimed land at ColoWyo Mine in Craig, Colorado.

Today in Casper, Wyoming, Tri-State participated at a public comments meeting conducted by the Bureau of Land Management, an agency of the Department of the Interior (DOI), regarding the processing and issuing of coal leases on federal lands.

The DOI placed a moratorium on coal leases in January that will last until the agency completes a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). The purpose of the PEIS is “to identify and evaluate potential reforms to ensure the program is properly structured to provide a fair return to the taxpayers and reflect its impacts on the environment, while continuing to help meet the nation’s energy needs.”

Our Senior Environmental Policy Analyst Douglas Lempke submitted the following comments during today’s meeting:

Statement of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Public Scoping Meetings on Preparation of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for Federal Coal Leasing Program
Casper, Wyoming
May 17, 2016

Good Morning, my name is Doug Lempke and I am here to represent the views of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association (Tri-State).

Tri-State is a consumer-owned, not-for-profit, wholesale electric power supplier owned by 44 electric cooperatives that serve approximately 1.5 million consumers – primarily in the rural areas of Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.

We own and operate the Colowyo Mine, which has long-term federal coal leases with the BLM. The Colowyo Mine generates millions in federal royalties, with approximately half of these royalty revenues returned to the State of Colorado and local communities. Tri-State is also a participant in the Trapper Mine in Colorado and the Dry Fork Mine in Wyoming, which also have federal leases. And we receive coal for our Springerville, AZ facility from Peabody’s North Antelope Rochelle Mine and from Arch Coal’s Black Thunder mine.

The discussion regarding limiting access to federal coal and increasing royalty rates is nothing more than a continuing effort to artificially increase costs and discourage the use of affordable and reliable coal resources.

Increasing costs of federal coal will have a direct, adverse impact on our members and the communities they serve, but provide little actual benefit to the environment, since it will just shift coal development to other areas.

For not-for-profit cooperatives like Tri-State, any increase in fuel costs is directly borne by our members. And our member systems serve some of the most economically depressed communities in the region where residents can least afford to pay higher electric bills.

As BLM develops the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the Federal Coal Program, Tri-State strongly encourages you to consider in all proposed alternatives:

– The impact on the cost of electricity,

– Federal, state and local government dependence on royalty payments,

– The true cost to mine federal coal, including state and federal royalty payments, all bonus bids, ad valorem property taxes, ad valorem production taxes, sales and use taxes, severance taxes and AML fees,,

– New ways to simplify reporting and administrative burdens for all parties involved,

– The long term benefits that coal mining can have for the environment, specifically the reinvigoration of wildlife habitats which may be in decline or of poor quality to start, and

– The provisions of the mineral leasing act that specifically identify and mandate the development of these resources for the benefit of the American public.

Tri-State encourages BLM to include alternatives in the PEIS that maximize federal coal use while maintaining the current royalty rate, or even better, proposing ways to reduce it.

Some have argued that the “Royalty Rate” is too low to provide Americans with the appropriate return on its development, but when you add in bonus bids, severance taxes and other fees and taxes, the economic analysis becomes much more favorable to development of federal coal resources.

The idea that access to federal coal should be significantly reduced – or even eliminated – would be disastrous and should not be considered as a reasonable alternative in the PEIS. Curtailment or elimination of federal coal will simply shift the emphasis to the use of private coal, eliminate any royalty payments and increase electricity costs.

As a nation, we can continue using federal coal in the future to keep electricity prices low while meeting national goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While the current administration has advocated for the reduction of coal generation, it has not suggested federal coal production be eliminated.  In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that under the Clean Power Plan coal will account for approximately 30 percent of the country’s electricity generation in 2030.

This future coal can come from federal reserves, where there is more environmental oversight and provides significant revenue to American taxpayers, states and local communities or it can come from other sources without these benefits.

Colowyo Mine: Protecting the Greater Sage-grouse in Colorado

Sharp-tailed grouse

Colorado Parks & Wildlife spokesperson Michelle Cowardin with a Sharp-tailed grouse near the Colowyo mine property

While Colowyo is best known for providing fuel to Tri-State’s Craig Station, it has recently been honored for its commitment to environmental preservation and conservation by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). Many types of animals call the land owned by Colowyo “home,” including; herds of elk and mule deer, pronghorn, endangered fish, bald and golden eagles, sandhill crane, large carnivores, and hundreds of Greater Sage-grouse and Columbian Sharp-tailed grouse. The largest Colorado populations of Greater Sage-grouse and Colombian Sharp-tail grouse reside in and around the Colowyo mine property.

Colowyo’s land profile includes tens of thousands of acres of grouse habitat, and the mine has always welcomed CPW onto their land for annual lek (breeding) counts, but their involvement goes far beyond that. Colowyo was a major partner in some of the first Greater Sage-grouse research projects in northwest Colorado – providing funds, access, logistical support and housing for researchers since 2001. Many young researchers make use of Colowyo’s Axial Basin “Grouse House” while observing the numerous animals native to this area of the state. Finally, Colowyo sponsored the Greater Sage and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Workshop to support ongoing conservation and management on a national level.

Because reserves in the current area being mined are nearly depleted, Colowyo is in the final stages of expansion planning at the mine. As a part of continued development of the mine, Colowyo has chosen to mitigate potential impacts to Greater Sage-grouse with a package of mitigation measures that include the donation of over 4,500 acres of high priority sage brush habitat and financial contributions to CPW to offset costs for monitoring, management and research of the Greater Sage-grouse.

Tri-State employees give generously through clothing drive

To say Tri-State’s firsthq_bin annual business clothing drive was merely a success would be an understatement. Employees at headquarters and the Northern Colorado Maintenance Center came out in full force over a two-week period to help those less fortunate get on their feet and interview-ready.

The drive resulted in the donation by employees of hundreds of clothing items to Dress For Success Denver and the Denver Rescue Mission. Dress for Success Denver is nonprofit organization that provides interview-appropriate clothing, employment retention programs and one-on-one executive coaching to low-income women seeking employment, while the Denver Rescue Mission is dedicated to helping people in need return to society as productive, self-sufficient citizens.

The clothing drive is part of Tri-State’s ongoing commitment to serve the communities in which we live and work. 

Touchstone Energy supports National Western Stock Show

nwssFor the past 18 years, Tri-State and its Touchstone Energy member cooperatives have supported the National Western Stock Show, which wrapped up Jan. 24 in Denver, Colo. This year saw strong attendance, with 686,745 visitors enjoying the 16 days’ worth of events and making it the second-highest overall attendance in stock show history.

Touchstone Energy Cooperatives once again participated in the hitch ride, with attendees including Ellen Connor, Tri-State’s senior vice president of organizational services; Gary Small, executive director of Colorado 4H Foundation; Kaila Thieman, Colorado State FFA Officer; and Barbara Walz, Tri-State’s senior vice president of policy & compliance.

Considering the population that receives its electricity from Tri-State member systems is primarily located in rural areas, support of the stock show aligns well with their way of life. Three stock show events fund the National Western Scholarship Trust – and produce enough revenue to fund approximately 80 scholarships throughout Colorado and Wyoming for students studying in the fields of agriculture and rural medicine.

Tri-State congratulates all exhibitors and competitors in the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo.

Silicon Ranch and PVREA Announces Energization of Local Solar Facilities

image005Tri-State member Poudre Valley REA (PVREA) and Silicon Ranch Corporation announced today that nearly 100,000 solar panels are live and generating renewable energy to Poudre Valley REA members in Northern Colorado.

The Skylark and Valley View Solar Facilities, both in Weld County, sit on nearly 150 acres of land combined and house nearly 100,000 solar panels – equivalent to the size of 48 football fields. The 8-megawatt solar facilities alone are 12 times larger than the Cooperative’s second Community Solar Farm that went live in January 2015 and are one of the first of its kind in Northern Colorado.

“This project is a milestone for Poudre Valley REA. Although we have completed renewable energy projects prior, such as our Community Solar Farms and the Carter Lake Hydropower Project, the Skylark and Valley View Solar Facilities are significantly larger and add another local, renewable energy source,” PVREA CEO Jeff Wadsworth said.

PVREA earlier this year signed a Purchase Power Agreement with Silicon Ranch Corporation to develop the Skylark and Valley View Solar Facilities. McCarthy Building Companies, one of the largest American-owned construction firms, was contracted by Silicon Ranch to build the solar facilities and hired160 local workforce in Northern Colorado for construction. In just three months, the sites went from dirt to hundreds of rows of solar panels generating enough energy to power 1,300 homes annually.

Silicon Ranch President and CEO Matt Kisber said, “As long-term owners of all our projects, Silicon Ranch takes great pride in being excellent neighbors and active members in the communities that we serve. To that end, we have spent considerable time and effort over the past several months listening, learning, and responding to various stakeholders throughout Weld County, including but not limited to Upstate Colorado Economic Development, Greeley City Council, the Weld County Board of County Commissioners, local city and county planning departments, and of course, our neighbors. Today we celebrate the commissioning of these solar facilities as a true group effort, and we are grateful for all of our project partners.”

The solar generation facilities are directly tied into the Cooperative’s distribution system and used as a local energy source, contributing to the local power mix for all PVREA members in Weld, Larimer and Boulder counties. Silicon Ranch worked with PVREA to locate the facilities that form the project at two strategic sites, one near Greeley and the other near Severance, to maximize benefits to the co-op members and to match to PVREA’s load requirements. The Cooperative also has other renewable energy projects – Carter Lake Hydropower, two Community Solar Farms, and several hundred members with individual Photovoltaic (PV) solar systems. With the commissioning of the Skylark and Valley View Solar Facilities, PVREA members receive 28% of their energy from renewable resources.

“We’re pleased to be providing renewable energy to our members that maintains reliability, makes economic sense and conserves natural resources, and we will continue to research additional energy resources that prove advantageous for our members,” PVREA CEO Jeff Wadsworth said.

 

SMPA bringing cost-efficient lighting to co-op-served communities

CP-Norwood250-captureTri-State member system San Miguel Power Association (Nucla, Colo.), will brighten the holidays this season in several of its co-op-served towns with a project to convert old technology streetlights to high efficiency LED fixtures that will deliver superior illumination and significant cost savings.

Tri-State supports these projects through its Energy Efficiency Products (EPP) program that is designed to partner with its members to offer rebate incentives to their co-op consumers who install energy efficient technologies such as LED lighting, heating and cooling equipment, and other electric products, that offer value to its members and the consumers they serve.

San Miguel Power’s municipal lighting project is planned for multiple phases beginning with the town of Norwood, where a total of 43 existing streetlights will be upgraded from obsolete mercury vapor and high pressure sodium lamps to LED illumination. To kick off the project, the first lamp (shown in photo) was recently installed at the corner of Market Street and Grand Avenue in Norwood to showcase the new brighter white lights to the public.

The co-op’s key accounts representative, Paul Hora, is encouraging feedback on the new lights and noted that $8,700 investment should yield an annual savings of nearly $2,900 plus reduced maintenance costs, since the lights are projected to have a 15 to 20-year lifespan.

Norwood’s town administrator, Patti Grafmyer, projects that the lighting retrofit will pay for itself in approximately two-and-a-half years.

Similar upgrades are also planned for Nucla and Naturita. In Nucla, the town will replace 58 fixtures for a savings of approximately $3,800 and 100 fixtures will be changed out in Naturita for a lighting tariff reduction of nearly $6,500.

San Miguel’s Hora said that the co-op also plans commercial lighting upgrades in 2016 in the towns of Ridgway, Rico and Silverton for a total of approximately 200 upgraded LED streetlights.

As is often case in many co-op served communities, San Miguel Power’s crews are also out helping everyone get in the holiday spirit by stringing LED holiday lights throughout the communities that they serve.

For High West Energy it’s all about the brands

Highwestpic250There’s a rich ranching heritage within Tri-State member High West Energy’s three-state service territory, and the co-op is saluting it in a most unusual way.

“Over the years, more than 500 brands have been registered in High West’s service territory,” says Brian  Heithoff, CEO and general manager of the Pine Bluffs, Wyo.-based co-op. “It is our goal to have as many of those brands as possible represented in our office.”

For nearly 30 years, seeing some of those brands has been part of the regular workday for dozens of staffers at the coop’s headquarters. The co-op took over an old John Deere dealership building back in 1988 and inherited a tradition likely born in the mind of a tractor salesman decades before to promote customer goodwill. Read more

Colowyo Mine says ‘thanks’ with checks to local communities

Meekerchk250On Nov. 10 and Nov. 23, respectively, Chris McCourt, manager of western Colorado’s Colowyo Coal Mine, presented a check for $15,000 to the Craig City Council and a donation of $5,000 to the Rio Blanco County Commissioners (pictured) in Meeker as a way of showing gratitude for the many years of support of the mine by the residents of these Western Slope communities.

“Many of our 220 employees at the mine are proud to call the towns of Meeker and Craig home and are gratified to know that their friends, neighbors and local businesses support the work that we do at the mine to responsibly help provide affordable electricity to Coloradoans,” said McCourt during his presentation to the Rio Blanco County Commissioners. “This check is our way of saying thanks for your longstanding support,” he added.

Located approximately half way between Craig (in Moffat County) and Meeker (in Rio Blanco County) on State Highway 13, Colowyo Mine currently supplies more than half of the coal needed to operate the 1,311-megawatt Craig Station near Craig. Nearly 200 Colowyo employees live in Moffat County or Rio Blanco County, and the mine has an estimated $206 million economic impact on the region. Colowyo Mine is owned and operated by Western Fuels-Colo., a wholly owned subsidiary of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

 

BLM releases draft EA on Montrose-Nucla-Cahone Transmission Project

– Rebuild of 80-Mile Line Will Support Regional Growth, Boost Grid Reliability

– Tri-State’s Preferred Alternative Would Promote Safety, Minimize Impacts on Grouse Habitat

 telecomchopper250WESTMINSTER, Colo. – Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc., a wholesale power supplier owned by 44 member electric cooperatives and public power districts, said today that it is encouraging the public to review a recently-released federal environmental analysis of the proposed Montrose-Nucla-Cahone (MNC) Transmission Upgrade Project. The company is also urging interested stakeholders to take advantage of a 30-day public comment period by expressing support for the utility’s preferred alternative for rebuilding the transmission line.

 Tri-State is proposing to rebuild and increase the capacity of the 80-mile MNC line that serves communities across southwestern Colorado, not only to replace aging infrastructure and increase grid reliability, but also to help meet new electricity demand. The existing 115 kilovolt (kV) line, in place for almost 60 years, will be replaced by a new 230 kV line and supported by a new substation and upgrades at two existing substations. The project will also replace fiber optic cable that is located on the existing line to ensure continued reliable emergency communications and broadband service for the region.

According to Tri-State Senior Vice President of Transmission Joel Bladow, the new line will benefit Tri-State’s members and the communities they serve. “Tri-State studied multiple ways to address the aging infrastructure, improve reliability and meet significant new demand in the region, and we determined that the MNC project was the best option,” said Bladow. “The upgraded line will help us meet the needs of our members for years to come.”

Because the existing line crosses lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the MNC project requires the completion of an Environmental Assessment (EA).

On Nov. 3, the BLM released a draft EA, triggering a 30-day public comment period (running through Dec. 3) that provides opportunities for stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposed alternatives and project benefits.

The draft EA identifies three construction alternatives. Under “Alternative A,” Tri-State’s preferred option, the utility would rebuild the line largely within the existing transmission line corridor – with the exception of diverting the current crossing of the Dolores River in western Dolores County to a new location approximately one mile downstream. The re-route is proposed to address safety, access and erosion concerns.

Bladow explained that the new crossing point would be more accessible, making it safer for construction and maintenance workers. “Safety is a top priority at Tri-State, but the existing span across the Dolores River creates real challenges for our maintenance staff. The northern takeoff point is located on steep, narrow, rocky terrain that is extremely difficult to access with vehicles and equipment for needed maintenance,” he said. “We are hopeful the BLM, Forest Service and other stakeholders will recognize that our proposed alternative offers a safer and more desirable location and will reduce erosion concerns by removing the current alignment from highly erosive soils.”

The other alternatives in the draft EA involve taking no action at all to improve the existing line – which would lead to further deterioration of the critical infrastructure, increase risk for electrical outages and threaten future service capacity – and diverting the existing corridor to accommodate a remnant population of Gunnison sage-grouse in the Dry Creek Basin in central San Miguel County. The BLM has proposed relocating 7.6 miles of line from its current route through the basin to a new alignment located along State Highway 141; the relocation would create an additional 1.3 miles of disturbance through Gunnison sage-grouse critical habitat.

As part of the 30-day public comment period on the draft EA, the BLM will host a public open house on Nov. 16 at Dove Creek High School in Dove Creek, Colo., from 5 to 7 p.m. Information is also available at the BLM’s project Web page: http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/district_offices/southwest/TriState230kVRebuild.html.

In addition, Tri-State has established a website at www.MNCRebuild.com to provide updated information on the project and to facilitate the submission of comments to the BLM.

 About Tri-State

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is a wholesale power supplier, operating on a not-for-profit basis, to 44 electric cooperatives and public power districts serving approximately 1.5 million consumers throughout a 200,000 square-mile service territory across Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. In 2015, Tri-State was recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as Wind Cooperative of the Year.

 Media Contact:

Drew Kramer

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association

O: (303) 254-3086

C: (303) 681-1341

E: Akramer@TriStateGT.org

 

PVREA to add 8 megawatts of solar capacity

PVREAsolar250According to a recent article appearing in the Denver Post, Tri-State member system Poudre Valley REA (Fort Collins, Colo.) could be just two months away from completing two solar farms that are expected to produce enough electricity to power about 1,300 homes.

Each of the two solar sites, located near Loveland, is being built on 70-acre land parcels that will accommodate nearly 50,000 solar panels. Maximum combined output for the two sites is approximately 8 megawatts.

Poudre Valley’s Amy Blunck said the solar sites are owned and being constructed by Nashville-based Silicon Ranch. One site, named Valley View Solar, is north of U.S. 34 and west of Colo. 257. The other site, called Skylark Solar, is near the intersection of Colorado highways 14 and 257, east of Fort Collins.

Poudre Valley REA has a 20-year contract to purchase the electricity from the solar facilities, but isn’t investing any money in their construction, Blunck said.

During the past several years, the co-op also has built two community solar farms, from which its consumers can purchase solar panels and receive a monthly credit on their electric bills. One of these community solar farms has a total of 494 panels and is located adjacent to Poudre Valley’s headquarters in Windsor. The other community solar site features about 2,000 solar panels and is located north of Fort Collins.

Poudre Valley also buys electricity from a small hydroelectric plant located at Carter Lake and receives up to 24 percent renewable power from its primary power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, based in Westminster, Colo.

NM jury affirms cooperative business model in Las Conchas fire trial

A jury in the Sandoval County District Court affirmed that Tri-State is not responsible for the actions of Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative, Inc. (JMEC), one of its 44 member distribution cooperatives, in a trial stemming from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire in New Mexico.

During the trial, Tri-State maintained it had a strong legal position in the case regarding its operations being separate from JMEC and the members of the jury agreed. The jury supported the cooperative’s arguments that JMEC and Tri-State did not operate as a joint venture or joint enterprise.

“We appreciate the jury’s recognition of the cooperative business model and that JMEC and Tri-State operate independently,” said Lee Boughey, senior manager of communications and public affairs for Tri-State.

The jury found JMEC, Tri-State and the United States Forest Service were comparatively negligent in the Las Conchas fire.

“Tri-State is disappointed with the negligence verdict, but we are nonetheless thankful to the jury for the time they have devoted to the trial,” said Boughey.

Tri-State maintains it had a strong defense and the correct legal position in the case and will consider all of its legal options.

The trial in the Sandoval County District Court began Oct. 1. The civil lawsuit was filed by a number of plaintiffs, including the Cochiti and Jemez pueblos, against JMEC and Tri-State for damages stemming from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. The issue of the amount of damages, if any, will be determined in a later trial.

The fire started when an aspen tree, located on private land approximately 50 feet beyond the edge of JMEC’s 20-foot right-of-way for an electric distribution line, fell into JMEC’s line during a period of strong winds. The U.S. Forest Service granted the right-of-way easement to the cooperative to operate the line.

“In this case, a tree located far from the line’s right-of-way and in apparently healthy condition was blown over by a wind gust,” said Boughey. “Given the tree’s location and condition, it could not have been identified by JMEC as posing a threat to the line.”

During the trial, both JMEC and Tri-State argued that JMEC was not negligent and followed distribution cooperative industry standards and practices for line clearance and tree trimming.

The jury found JMEC 75 percent negligent, Tri-State 20 percent negligent and the US Forest Service 5 percent negligent.

“Utilities operate power lines and maintain rights-of-way to ensure safety and to protect their communities,” said Boughey. “We feel deeply for those in the Cochiti and Jemez pueblos and the other plaintiffs who were affected by the fire.”

FERC: Renewables account for over 60% of new generation in 2015

Multirenewables250Renewables accounted for 60.2 percent of the new U.S. electricity generation capacity for the first three quarters of 2015, according to the “Energy Infrastructure Update” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Office of Energy Projects.

The cumulative installed capacity of biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 was 7,276 megawatts. It included 2,966 megawatts of new wind capacity, 40.76 percent of the total, as well as 1,137 megawatts of solar, 205 megawatts of biomass, 45 megawatts of geothermal steam and 27 megawatts of hydropower. Natural gas generation capacity grew by 2,884 megawatts in the same period.

In the month of September, wind topped the new generation capacity list with 448 megawatts, natural gas was second at 346 megawatts and solar was third with 20 megawatts of new capacity.

FERC puts renewables at 17.4 percent of total installed U.S. generating capacity, including 8.59 percent hydro, 5.91 percent wind, 1.43 percent biomass, 1.13 percent solar and 0.34 percent geothermal steam generation. No new nuclear capacity was added in 2015 and only 9 megawatts of oil and 3 megawatts of coal-fired capacity.

Critics point out the renewable numbers – especially those for solar – are underestimated because FERC does not fully account for distributed generation in its reports.

 

Tri-State files legal challenge on Clean Power Plan

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. filed a legal challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan by filing a Petition for Review with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Tri-State, the wholesale power supplier to 44 member electric cooperatives and public power districts across the West, is also participating in motions for stay of the rule filed by a large group of states, trade organizations, utilities, energy producers and business interests.

Even as Tri-State works constructively with the states to develop state plans under the new rule, strong arguments exist to show EPA exceeded its legal authority and many of the requirements of the rule are legally flawed.

During the federal rulemaking process, Tri-State and many of its member systems raised legal and technical issues about the proposal and expressed concerns the rule would be unworkable and unenforceable. The EPA did little to address these concerns and issued a final rule, which prompted the legal challenge.

Tri-State appreciates the efforts of attorneys general across the country who have asked to stay implementation of the rule until all of the legal issues are resolved. A stay of the rule is warranted because of the irreparable harm that will occur long before the compliance obligations go into effect. Utilities are often required to comply with a rule and forced to make long-term decisions well before the legal process concludes.

While pursuing legal challenges to the federal rule, Tri-State is also committed to working with officials in the five states in which it operates to develop required state plans and minimize the impact these state plans have on its members and rural electricity consumers.

Tri-State addresses carbon emissions by maintaining highly efficient power plants, investing in renewable energy and supporting research and development. In 2014, 24 percent of the energy delivered by Tri-State and its member systems was from renewable resources, and the association’s renewable power supply will grow by another 281 megawatts with the completion of four wind and solar projects by 2017. Tri-State also supports progressive energy efficiency programs offered by its member systems.

In addition to Tri-State’s renewable energy resources and energy efficiency programs, fossil fuel resources remain essential to serve load, maintain reliability and manage power costs for its members.

Tri-State is the wholesale power supplier, operating on a not-for-profit basis, to 44 member electric distribution systems that serve 1.5 million members throughout 200,000 square miles of Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. Tri-State has operations in five states, including Arizona.

 

Tri-State to help support carbon capture R&D at Basin plant

Dryforksta250Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Station (Gillette, Wyo.) will host a new research facility underwritten by the state of Wyoming with help from Tri-State and other electric cooperatives to develop commercially viable uses for carbon dioxide produced by power plants.

Tri-State is a Class A member of Basin Electric and also shares ownership in the Bismarck, N.D.-based G&T’s Laramie River Station near Wheatland, Wyo.

“We are making an investment in the future of coal,” Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said in announcing the plans for the new Integrated Test Center on Oct. 8. “The research at the ITC will lead to new opportunities in petrochemicals and other commercial uses.

Wyoming, the nation’s leading coal-producing state, is financing 75 percent of the $20 million project. Tri-State and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association have also pledged significant contributions to the project.

“This facility allows us to provide the same leadership in research and to do all we can to make sure the coal industry can continue to serve Wyoming and the country for many years to come,” said Mead.

Dry Fork Station is one of a number of coal-based generation facilities in Basin’s generation fleet that supplies power to its member cooperatives, including Tri-State.

The XPRIZE Foundation has agreed to be one of the first tenants in the Integrated Test Center. The international Philanthropic group recently announced a $20 million global competition to encourage development of new uses for CO2.

The ITC will be completed in time to host the final phase of the Carbon XPRIZE, which is scheduled to begin in late 2017.

Watch “The people behind the power” mining video

Miner&son250Tri-State takes a great deal of pride in the men and women who safely and efficiently operate its mines in Colorado. Take a look at this short video (less than 7 minutes) and learn more about how these miners, their families and the local community business owners view the operations at Tri-State’s coal mines and the important role that they play in helping us keep the lights on for thousands of consumers across the West.

Tri-State announces 25-megawatt Alta Luna Solar Project in New Mexico

Altaluna250Tri-State and D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments, L.L.C. (DESRI), have announced the execution of a 25-year contract to supply the association with renewable energy from the planned Alta Luna Solar Project to be constructed in Luna County in southwest New Mexico.

Tri-State will purchase the entire output of the 25-megawatt solar farm over the life of the contract. The facility is expected to come online in December 2016 and will receive electric service from Tri-State member Columbus Electric Cooperative, based in Deming.

“Alta Luna Solar is the third utility-scale renewable energy project we’ve announced this year and further demonstrates how Tri-State and its members are committed to a diverse, yet cost-effective generation fleet,” said Brad Nebergall, Tri-State’s senior vice president of energy management. “As with the other projects, Alta Luna represents a collaborative effort to find solutions to the various challenges that new generation presents – from siting and engineering to transmission access and financing. We are pleased to be contributing to this important initiative.”

The new solar site will consist of a single-axis tracking array of over 108,000 photovoltaic solar panels located on a 220-acre site in Luna County, approximately 25 miles northeast of Deming. The project was developed by TurningPoint Energy, a Denver-based developer, and subsequently sold to an affiliate of DESRI in partnership with Bright Plain Renewable Energy, LLC, a San Francisco-based solar project developer, investor and operator.

The Alta Luna Solar Project is Tri-State’s second utility-scale solar photovoltaic power purchase agreement in New Mexico and the third in its system overall. In 2010, the utility began receiving power from the 30-megawatt Cimarron Solar facility located in Colfax County, N.M., and last month Tri-State announced an agreement to purchase power from the 30-megawatt San Isabel Solar Project to be constructed in southern Colorado.

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 in the nation.

 

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.