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]

 

 

Tri-State and Iberdrola Renewables announce wind power agreement

iberdola-wind250Iberdrola Renewables today announced a 25-year contract to supply Tri-State with renewable energy from the planned Twin Buttes II Wind Project. Tri-State will purchase the entire output of the 76-megawatt (MW) wind farm, when the project is expected to be completed in 2017.

The Twin Buttes II project will consist of 38 wind turbines located on 11,000 acres of land 23 miles south of Lamar, Colo., near Iberdrola Renewables’ existing Twin Buttes Wind Project. The new project will produce enough energy to power the approximate equivalent of 30,000 average Colorado households. It is expected to deliver approximately $270,000 in local tax benefits and $250,000 in landowner lease payments annually.

“In 2014, approximately 24 percent of the energy Tri-State and its member systems delivered to cooperative members was generated from renewable resources, making us one of the leading utilities in the country for using renewable power,” noted Brad Nebergall, Tri-State’s senior vice president of energy management. “The Twin Buttes II Wind Project further reinforces our commitment to a diverse generation fleet built on cost-effective resources. We’d like to thank our partners at Iberdrola Renewables and our member system Southeast Colorado Power Association, who will host this outstanding project in their service territory.”

“Southeast Colorado Power welcomes this expansion as positive economic development and power source diversification that will benefit member-owners within our service territory,” added Jack Johnston, the rural electric cooperative’s chief executive officer.

“We’re excited to welcome this investment in our community,” said Ron Cook, the Chairman of the Prowers County Commission. “Renewable energy has already proven to be a good neighbor, by providing substantial local economic benefits to the individual leaseholders and the larger community as a whole. It diversifies and strengthens the area’s agricultural economic base.”

“Wind is the most drought-resistant crop we have, and it’s delivered valuable economic stability to a number of family farmers and ranchers in the area,” said Val Emick, a landowner at Twin Buttes II and the operating Colorado Green wind farm. “Working with an experienced developer and operator like Iberdrola Renewables gives us a lot of confidence that Twin Buttes II will expand a successful partnership and help a lot of working families around here.”

“We are happy to support Tri-State’s renewable energy goals with affordable wind energy from our new project,” said Barrett Stambler, vice president of Iberdrola Renewables. “With experience developing, constructing, and managing wind and solar projects in Colorado, we look forward to reliably providing clean power and supporting a new partnership with them.”

Association among proud sponsors of Leopold Conservation Awards

Leopold-CO-2015_-_028250Tri-State and its Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are proud to be among the sponsors of this year’s 2015 Leopold Conservation Award recipients in the states of Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming.

Recently, the association’s staff paid a visit to the Flying Diamond Ranch near Kit Carson, Colo., owned by the Johnson family, who are fifth generation cattle ranchers and this year’s recipients of the 2015 Colorado Leopold Conservation Award.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes private landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. It is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Land Trust, Tri-State and its member systems.

Electrically served by Tri-State member K.C. Electric Association ( Hugo, Colo.), the Flying Diamond Ranch is a 25,000-acre, cattle operation that has been in the Johnson family for more than a century. The family’s management philosophy has reflected a personal conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land. Guided by their principles of holistic management, they have implemented a rotational grazing system that is supported by pipelines and fencing, which allows them to control the environmental impact of the herd.

“The Flying Diamond has done an impressive job of balancing resources with operational needs to create a sustainability show piece that should be an inspiration to us all,” said Frank Daley, president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.

“Tri-State and its member electric cooperatives are proud to support the Leopold Conservation Award,” said Mike McInnes, chief executive officer of Tri-State. “The award recipient’s environmental stewardship reflects the strong conservation ethic of rural communities and their electric cooperatives.”

The Leopold Award consists of a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold and $10,000. This award will be presented to the Johnsons at the Protein Producers Summit in Steamboat Springs on June 15.

United Power helps community members in need

United-Power-logo250United Power’s Operation Roundup program has collected and distributed more than $1 million in funds over the past 20 years to help members in need. [Read more]

Tri-State, SMPA team up for sponsorship of Axel Bicycle Classic in Sept.

axel-1-sm250Later this summer, riders participating in the 48 – or 80-mile charity ride over southwest Colorado’s Dallas Divide into Placerville, or Telluride and back, will be treated to some of the most spectacular mountain scenery that the nation has to offer when the annual Axel Project Bicycle Classic hits the road on Sept. 5 in Ridgway, Colo.

Tri-State, and its member system, San Miguel Power Association (Ridgway and Nucla, Colo.) are proud to be among the sponsors of this event aimed at raising awareness of the recreational and health benefits of kids and their families getting out on their bikes and raising funds to make more bicycles, helmets and equipment available to everyone.

“Tri-State, under the Touchstone Energy Sponsorship fund, and member San Miguel Power each contributed $1,500 to the event, while Basin Electric Power Cooperative (Bismarck, N.D.) provided a matching fund of $2,000, which allowed us to sponsor at the $5,000 level,” said Brad Zaporski, manager of member services at San Miguel Power.

The Axel Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the fundamental principle that a productive, happy life begins with bikes. Their mission is to introduce and nurture a lifelong passion for cycling to children and their families.

The Axel Project was created several years ago in honor of Axel Micah Charrette, who died in February 2013. During his short life this young boy left a mark on almost everyone he came in contact with and his kind soul, joy of life and love of bicycling continues to serve as an inspiration to others.

Participating riders in the Axel Classic will have the enjoyment and satisfaction of knowing that they are promoting a sport that they love (bicycling) while pedaling through some of the most spectacular scenery in the West.

“This event is very important to the Ridgway community and draws a majority of its participants from our service territory and throughout Colorado. This is the co-op’s first year sponsoring this event and we are very pleased to be a part of it,” added Zaporski.

Power, the representative of all the work that electricity does for the consumers of the association’s 44 member electric cooperatives and public power districts, will also make a guest appearance at the kid’s adventure zone during the day’s activities.

Carousel Wind Farm construction underway in eastern Colo.

Anchor-installation250With construction now underway on the 150-megawatt Carousel Wind Farm in eastern Colorado, Tri-State is looking forward to adding its largest wind resource to date to its growing renewable resource portfolio, when the project is slated for completion in 2016.

In December 2013, Tri-State signed a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC (the owner of the generating facility) to purchase the entire output and the associated environmental attributes of the Carousel Wind Farm.

The project site, which is entirely within the service territory of Tri-State member K. C. Electric Association (Hugo, Colo.), will encompass 34,500 acres, a parcel that extends east all the way to the Kansas border. This wind farm will utilize a total of 87 General Electric wind turbines. Of those turbines, a total of 81 are rated for a maximum of 1.715 megawatts of capacity and six of the turbines are slightly larger at 1.79 megawatts. Annual energy production from the new wind farm is approximately 664,500 megawatt-hours, according to Susan Hunter, Tri-State’s business development manager of energy resources.

The Carousel Wind Farm will be the third wind facility to produce power for Tri-State. The association also has PPAs for the output of the nearby 51-megawatt Kit Carson Windpower site (near Burlington, Colo.) and the 91-megawatt Colorado Highlands Wind farm located about 25 miles northeast of Sterling, Colo.

The new wind farm will interconnect to the Tri-State system at the association’s existing Burlington Substation.

Concurrent to Carousel Wind Farm’s construction is the construction of the 72-mile, 230-kV, Burlington to Wray transmission line. This transmission project will boost capacity and reliability to better serve existing and anticipated loads in the area as well as provide the needed capacity and infrastructure for the Carousel Wind Farm. Construction of the new line, along with upgrades to both the Burlington and Wray substations, are on schedule for the spring of 2016.

Co-ops lead in satisfied consumers

ACSI-2015-240x160[1]250Co-ops are doing it right. Touchstone Energy® member electric cooperatives are once again at the head of the class in a new survey of consumers. [Read more]

 

 

Fossil Ridge High Schoolers are 2015 Matchwits champions

250Congrats to the 2015 Matchwits champions representing Fossil Ridge High School. Tri-State joined Poudre Valley REA and Power Works For You to congratulate the team on their impressive achievement! [Read more]

 

 

Tri-State member and CoBank support Montrose food pantry

DMEA-food-bank250Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA), a Tri-State member, and CoBank joined together to support the community they serve. Cooperatives are known for supporting their communities but when cooperatives work together, the benefit can be even greater. [Read more]

 

USDA Announces Funding Available Through the Value-Added Producer Grant Program

properity250USDA announced today that $30 million is available to farmers, ranchers and food entrepreneurs for the development of new products lines.  Grants up to $250,000 for working capital or $75,000 for planning grants are available. The agency is offering a total of $30 million in this program designed to foster development of regional food systems and bio-based products. The deadline for FY 2015 is July 7. This program requires a 50 percent match from the applicant; eligible applicants include farmers, agricultural producer groups, farmer- or rancher-cooperatives and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures.

Prosperity Ag has helped producers use the Value Add Producer grant to develop projects in aquaculture, specialty dairy products, feed grains and many other areas. Contact Prosperity Ag today at 1-855-783-2388 or grants@prosperityag.com.

 

Co-op Solar Deployments Underway

NRECA-logo250Additional co-op participants in the Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration (SUNDA) Project have now begun deployment.  On Earth Day (April 22), CoServ announced its 2MW solar PV system, which is under construction in northern Denton County, Texas.  Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative announced that ‘ballasts have been poured, racking structures are being installed, and panels are on their way’ for their 600kW solar PV system on-site at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.  Joining Great River Energy – which successfully installed and commissioned three solar PV systems at their headquarters in June 2014, these efforts serve as examples of how the SUNDA project is helping to facilitate utility-scale (250kW, 500kW, 1MW or larger) photovoltaic systems.

For more information on these first deployments, visit the “Deployments” section of the SUNDA website on www.nreca.coop.  And, if you missed
our recent popular webinar on utility owned and utility scale solar PV, you can watch it On Demand at your convenience.

How New Water Heater Standards Affect Consumers

crn2-250Now that the new National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) standards for water heaters have taken effect as of April 16, consumers are asking ‘how will this affect me?’ National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Cooperative Research Network summarized that the bottom line is for consumers using tanks less than 55-gallons (which is about 95 percent of the electric market), there will be a moderate increase in the required energy efficiency levels and a few inches increase to the tanks’ width and/or height.  Consumers can expect a likely price increase as well, although the extent is unknown at this time.

Beverage Producers Toast the Benefits of Being on Electric Co-op Lines

Spread-Photo_250Breweries, wineries and distilleries across the nation are cooperative members, and without that power, some of our favorite libations would be nothing more than hops, grapes or grains. Read the story on RE Magazine.coop.

 

 

 

 

Wheat Belt teens learn about Tri-State

WB_Student_tour_-_08250Earlier this week in Westminster (April 20), a number of Tri-State staff members had the pleasure of hosting a half-day tour and orientation program for a small group of Sidney High School students, accompanied by Wheat Belt Public Power District’s (Sidney, Neb.), CEO, Tim Lindahl and Mark Cape, lineman for the western Nebraska member system.

The six visiting students arrived late Monday morning at headquarters for a packed agenda that began with presentations from Susan Hunter, business development manager, on Tri-State’s various generation resources and Robert Rojas, senior manager of transmission maintenance, who discussed some of the procedures that his crews follow to keep the lights on for our members, including live line procedures that require working on and around energized equipment.

Following a working luncheon that included a question and answer session, the teens and member system staffers were led on tours of the dispatch arena in the operations center by Mike Houglum, dispatch manager, followed by a visit to the headquarters energy marketing center hosted by Janelle Marriott-Gill, market training and regulatory compliance coordinator.

Later, the Wheat Belt visitors were shuttled to Tri-State’s Northern Colorado Maintenance Center, where they received walk-throughs and hands on demonstrations of the association’s transformer, substation and telecommunications training trailers that Tri-State’s instructors use to teach apprentice level employees.

What better way to wrap-up a Tri-State tour than to get a first-hand look at where some of the power is produced for their local co-op? Plant manager Richard Rhoads was happy to oblige, by providing a brief tour of Tri-State’s 272-megawatt, natural gas-fired J.M. Shafer Station located near Fort Lupton, Colo.

Escalante Station welcomes local Cub Scout pack

IMG_0149250Seizing the opportunity to keep the community informed about how electricity is made, Escalante Station recently opened its doors to a group of local Cub Scouts for a tour of the plant. Representatives from Escalante welcomed a group of 24 children and adults and offered them a look at how coal-fired power plants work as well as tips about safety and conservation.

Frank Aguilar, control room operator, gives Cub Scout pack 26 a look at the inner workings of Escalante Station.

The visit was a good combination of two of the seven cooperative principles, education and concern for community, and it left a positive impression on the group. Highlights for the kids included watching the coal being dumped from the train, and getting a peek at the fireball through an inspection port in the boiler.

The group was impressed with how clean the plant was, and got a better understanding of the environmental rules coal-fired plants are subject to. “More than once, we heard ‘wow, we can’t believe how clean it is,’” said Carolee Gonzales, learning facilitator at Escalante Station.

Tri-State board officers elected following 2015 Annual Meeting

Mike250Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the not-for-profit wholesale power supplier to 44 member electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming, held its 63rd annual meeting in Broomfield, Colo., on April 8, 2015. Approximately 480 electric cooperative representatives and industry officials attended the meeting to review the association’s   performance and discuss the issues facing the electric utility industry.

Board elects officers

At the meeting, the association’s board of directors was seated for the upcoming year, including the six officers and three at-large positions that make up the board’s Executive Committee. Under the cooperative business model, Tri-State’s board is made up of one representative from each of its member systems, serving as the democratically-elected governing body of the association.

Rick Gordon, representing Tri-State member co-op Mountain View Electric Association (Limon, Colo.), was reelected chairman for a sixth consecutive term. Gordon originally joined Tri-State’s board in 1994 and served as vice chairman for 13 years prior to first being elected chairman in 2010. He has served on Mountain View’s board since 1992.

Tony Casados, representing Northern Rio Arriba Electric Cooperative (Chama, N.M.), also was reelected vice chairman for a sixth term, after having served as an assistant secretary for nine years previous. Casados has served on his local co-op’s board since 1982 and has been on the Tri-State board since 2000.

Leo Brekel, representing Highline Electric Association (Holyoke, Colo.) since 2003 was reelected to the position of secretary. Stuart Morgan, who has represented Wheat Belt Public Power District (Sidney, Neb.) on the Tri-State board since 2007, was reelected treasurer – a position he first assumed in 2012.

Matt Brown, who has represented High Plains Power (Riverton, Wyo.) on the Tri-State board since 2010, was reelected to the assistant secretary position for his third term. Julie Kilty, who has represented Wyrulec Company (Torrington, Wyo.) on the Tri-State board since 2012, was elected to the second assistant secretary position for her first term.

The Executive Committee’s three at-large positions are being filled by incumbents Joe Wheeling, representing La Plata Electric (Durango, Colo.) and Bill Mollenkopf representing Empire Electric Association (Cortez, Colo.), and newly elected member Joseph Herrera representing Socorro Electric Cooperative (Socorro, N.M.).

Member relations addressed in 2014

 The association’s annual meeting and annual report was themed “Powering Forward Together” which highlighted the board and staff’s efforts during the past year to improve communications and strengthen the bond between the association and its 44 member systems. Tri-State Chairman and President Rick Gordon recognized the association’s membership for their work to improve member relations and spoke to Tri-State’s financial strength.

“A key focus of the board during the past year has been to improve relations and address disputes within the membership, and we made progress on that goal,” said Gordon. “The association remained financially sound in 2014 and returned $21 million in patronage capital to the member systems.”

Chief Executive Officer Mike McInnes commented on Tri-State’s operational performance.

“The association experienced growth in 2014, particularly in the oil and gas basins served by several of our member systems,” said McInnes. “Staff delivered new transmission projects to meet the growing needs of our membership, ensured the performance and availability of our power plants and bolstered our ability to manage our power and fuel transactions. In all efforts, attention to cost control remains important to our work.”

The association highlighted its work in 2014 to bolster member relations among its 44 member systems, including the board’s adoption of two dispute resolution policies, the work of two membership committees to address contract and rate issues, and the activity of member advisory councils.

“Our whole focus is membership driven,” said Jennifer Goss, senior vice president, member relations. “We continue to work together to build trust and to collaborate on the issues and services that each member values.”

Renewable energy production sets record

 The association’s generation from renewable resources reached a new record, with 24 percent of the energy the association and its member systems delivered to cooperative members in 2014 coming from renewable resources. Overall, Tri-State delivered 15.4 million megawatt-hours of electricity to its members in 2014, while recording a member peak demand of 2,813 megawatts. Combined with off-system energy sales, the G&T sold 18.7 million megawatt-hours for the year.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recognized Tri-State as the 2014 Wind Cooperative of the Year in the generation and transmission (G&T) cooperative category. Tri-State member San Isabel Electric Association, Inc. (SIEA), based in Pueblo West, Colo., was honored for wind energy development by a distribution cooperative.

“Tri-State continues to effectively add new renewable resources to its portfolio,” said Brad Nebergall, senior vice president, energy management. “With 24 percent renewable energy delivered to end users, Tri-State and our members are among the highest utility renewable performers in the U.S.”

Refinancing among largest for a U.S. electric cooperative

 At the annual meeting, Chief Financial Officer Pat Bridges reviewed Tri-State’s $1.6 billion refinancing in November 2014, which was among the largest completed by an electric cooperative in U.S. history. The transactions included a $750-million private debt placement, a $500-million public bond offering and $340 million in loans with CoBank and the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC). As part of the refinancing, Tri-State paid off its Federal Financing Bank (FFB) and Rural Utilities Service (RUS) loans.

“Generation and transmission cooperatives are capital intensive businesses,” said Bridges. “With favorable market conditions and a strong balance sheet, Tri-State’s refinancing reduces capital costs, increases financial flexibility and lessens future borrowing needs, which helps manage costs to the benefit of our members.”

The association posted year-end revenues of $1.4 billion and assets of $4.7 billion.

Video Examines Benefits of Sustainable Utility Project in Haiti

NRECA-logo250The sleepy village of Caracol, Haiti, is starting to blossom, in part because of NRECA International and its partners. Today, thanks to a venture called Haiti’s Pilot Project for Sustainable Electricity Distribution (PPSELD), there is a new power plant in Caracol’s industrial park, a more effective distribution grid and power lines, and an established private utility. [Play the video]

A Day to Celebrate Linemen

Lineman.TIF(1250Mark it on the calendar: There’s now a day set aside to celebrate the accomplishments of the linemen whose devotion to duty is at the heart of electric cooperatives.

The NRECA Board has established National Lineman Appreciation Day in honor of linemen who work to keep the lights on.

The NRECA Board has designated the second Monday of each April as National Lineman Appreciation Day. In 2015, that means April 13 will represent an opportunity for co-ops to recognize the men and women who keep the lights on.

“It gives us a rallying point for our linemen,” said Kerry Kelton, NRECA Texas Director, who presented the resolution to the board Dec. 11 on behalf of the Government Relations Committee. [Read more]

Western Area Power Administration features San Isabel and Tri-State’s awards in recent newsletter

WAPA-logo250Two Western customers named 2014 Wind Cooperatives of the Year

The Department of Energy (DOE) recognized San Isabel Electric Association Inc. and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association as the 2014 Wind Cooperatives of the Year at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) TechAdvantage 2015 Conference and Expo.

The 14th annual awards, presented in Orlando, Florida, honored Tri-State in the generation and transmission (G&T) cooperative category and San Isabel for wind energy development by a distribution cooperative. The two power providers were selected by a panel of experts from the wind industry, utilities, government, national laboratories and cooperatives. [Read full article]

 

Burlington-Wray transmission line project construction underway this month

Bigsandy[1]Following the recent authorization by the Tri-State board (March 3-4) to award the construction contract and purchase the optical ground wire for the 72-mile, 230-kilovolt Burlington-Wray Transmission Project in eastern Colorado, crews from Brink Constructors, Inc., (Rapid City, S.D.) have begun ramping up construction of this project that is slated for completion in May of 2016.

Among first steps that are now underway in the project is the transport of approximately $8 million in stored construction materials from Tri-State’s Sidney, Neb., warehouse to various staging sites along the project’s right-of-way path, according to Gary Mueller, senior engineer.

The new line, which will complete a 230-kV path between the existing Burlington and Wray substations, will provide many benefits in Tri-State’s ability to better serve existing and new loads in the area. Presently, Tri-State’s two 230-kV lines in the region are linked between Burlington and Wray substations by a lower voltage 115-kV line that restricts the association’s ability to fully utilize its 230-kV transmission system to dispatch its existing generation resources and serve its native load. The new line will help relieve that bottleneck and improve Tri-State’s ability to dispatch generation resources in eastern Colorado.

The new 230-kV Burlington-Wray line will also provide the needed capacity and infrastructure for the 150-megawatt Carousel Wind Farm that will begin construction this spring and begin commercial operation in 2016. Tri-State will purchase the entire output of this site near Burlington, Colo. When completed, the Carousel wind site will produce more than 600,000 megawatt-hours of energy annually, making it Tri-State’s largest wind power resource to date.

Tri-State also receives the output of the nearby 51-megawatt Kit Carson Windpower site, which was completed in 2010, as well as the 91-megawatt Colorado Highlands Wind site located near Fleming, Colo.

In addition to the new line construction, the project will also require upgrades at both the Burlington and Wray substations. “We will be installing a new line bay at Burlington Substation and a new ring bus will go in at the Wray Substation,” explained Craig Knoell, transmission project manager.

“Some of the work at the substations, as well as commissioning once the entire project is complete, will be conducted by Tri-State’s transmission construction services group,” said David “Buck” Buckridge, transmission construction services manager.

Construction will begin at the Burlington end of the line with three crews working their way north. “We anticipate about 25 to 30 construction personnel on site,” said Mueller.

First will be the digging crew excavating the holes for the structures. Next will be the framing crew to assemble the H-frame structures and finally a setting crew will erect, align and secure each of the transmission support structures.

“Our plan is to have most of the line’s 460 structures in place by the end of the year and then stringing operations will begin next winter,” explained the senior engineer.

The Tri-State project team added that barring any severe weather issues that might impede construction activities, they expect the line to be energized on schedule in the spring of 2016.

NRECA outlines electric co-ops’ response to Clean Power Plan

NRECA250In a video interview aired last week on the Environment & Energy Publishing website, Kirk Johnson, senior vice president for government relations at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), presented a thoughtful and detailed overview of the electric cooperative industry’s concerns regarding the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

Johnson said that the EPA is reaching beyond its legal authority and traditional approach to enforcing provisions of the federal Clean Air Act, while also explaining how the agency is using questionable and unrealistic assumptions to achieve its desired outcome of reducing carbon emissions nationwide.

Johnson is also careful to note that electric cooperatives have long supported fuel diversity and the incorporation of renewable energy while maintaining a “focus on what’s in the best interest of their consumers in their local community.”

For a link to the video interview, as well as a written transcript, click here.

For ‘pole’ cat, co-op linemen to the rescue

lineman-shawn-juaire-with-cat-180x240Cold, alone and stranded 40 feet above snow-covered ground, things looked pretty bleak for a black cat precariously perched atop a Vermont Electric Cooperative power pole.

One wrong move could have dashed the feline onto energized lines or sent it careening toward the landscape four stories below.

When system operator Melanie Butler got a call for help at the co-op’s operations center in Johnson, no nearby line crews were available. So she called the co-op’s Grand Isle office and found a lineman in the shop waiting for his partner to return from off-site training.

Shawn Juaire was willing to help, but knew he’d need a second qualified lineman to operate the bucket. Butler arranged for the co-op’s Gerald Gates to join him from the closer Richfield office.

By the time Juaire completed the 39-mile drive, Gates was already on site.

The cat was crouched on the center of the pole when they arrived. A move in any direction would almost certainly have been fatal.

Juaire put on his protective gear and attached his safety line to the bucket. Once Gates raised it into position, Juaire secured the energized line with rubber insulation, and carefully reached for the animal clinging to the pole top.

With the cold cat safely wrapped in a spare shirt and tucked into a tool bag, Gates lowered his temporary partner and the cat safely to the ground.

Nearby residents did not recognize the animal, according to co-op officials. It didn’t have a collar which gave them very little chance of finding the owner, so they released it at a nearby barn to recuperate and eventually find its way home.

Shawn may even have earned himself a new job title—cat whisperer.

“This was an unusual assignment to say the least,” said Dave Hallquist, Vermont Electric Cooperative CEO. “But we’re glad Shawn and Gerald were able to respond and bring the cat down safely.”

Upgrade your lights from “analog” to digital with LED bulbs.

GE_reveal60wattLED_Comparison250Just as you upgraded your TV/cable and phone from an analog system to digital for better sound and picture quality, the lighting industry has been modernizing its options and products in order to offer consumers greater energy efficiency. For the past several years, traditional incandescent bulbs have been phased out in favor of halogen and compact fluorescent (CFL) lights that offer greater efficiency. Even more recent innovations in technology have focused on Light Emitting Diode light sources, or LED bulbs, which are essentially digital light.

Longevity and efficiency in one

Known for their longevity and efficiency, LED lights have an estimated operational life span of up to 50,000 hours. This equates to 17 years of continuous operation, or 34 years of 50 percent operation. So if you were to use an LED fixture for eight hours per day, it would take approximately 17 years before it would need to be replaced.

LED lights are different from fluorescent and incandescent light sources, as LEDs do not contain a gas or filament of any kind. Instead, the entire LED is made up of a semiconductor, which is solid in nature and makes LEDs more durable. LED lights are small, packed electronic chip devices where two conductive materials are placed together on a chip (a diode). Electricity passes through the diode, releasing energy in the form of light. Unlike fluorescent lights that require a few minutes to warm up before reaching their full level of brightness, LEDs achieve full illumination immediately.

The cost of “analog” lights

If you are still hanging on to your traditional or “analog” era lighting, your light bulb is operating at only 20 percent energy efficiency. Eighty percent of the electricity from the “analog” bulb is lost as heat. To illustrate how this inefficiency impacts your wallet, consider this. If you have traditional lighting and your electric bill is $100, then you are spending $80 to heat the room instead of light it. Using LED illumination with 80 percent efficiency, your electricity cost would be approximately $20, saving you about $80.

Ideal for outdoor use

LEDs are ideal for outdoor use because of their durability. LED lights are resistant to vibrations, shock and external impacts such as exposure to weather, wind and rain. In addition, they are temperature resistant and operate in colder outdoor temperatures. In contrast, colder temperatures may affect operation of fluorescent lamps. LEDs can also be dimmed, allowing maximum flexibility in usage.

Smart choice for emergency use

If you have a portable generator or battery-back-up, in the event of a power outage or weather emergency, LED lights are a smart complement to your back-up power system. Because they draw so little power, using LED lights instead of CFL or traditional bulbs will allow you to illuminate more areas or channel the “saved” energy to other needed applications.

Co-ops: doing local politics on a national level

Emerson-annual-meeting-2-240x157[1]Electric cooperatives are in an ideal position to build rock-solid grassroots political strength by tapping innovative ways of engaging their members and building their communities, according to NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson.

In a spirited support of the cooperative model, Emerson called on co-op leaders from across the country to recommit to their members as the best way to be heard in the political corridors of Washington, D.C.

“If you’re going to tweet anything today, tweet this: We do local politics on a national level,” Emerson said Feb. 23 during her keynote address at the first general session of the 73rd NRECA Annual Meeting.

“The more technology we deploy, the more clout we have,” she said. “The stronger we are in politics, the more change we make in our communities. The better we serve consumers, the more trust we gain in the halls of Congress.” [Read more]

Tri-State’s EEP program helps save on electric bills

Low-temp-heat-pump-Loveland-CO-02-(2)250According to 2014 statistics provided by Tri-State’s member relations group, the association’s long-standing and highly successful Energy Efficiency Products (EEP) program paid out $2.1 million in incentives and shaved in excess of 134 million kilowatt-hours in energy savings to the end-use consumers of Tri-State’s member systems participating in the EEP program.

This program, which started in 1985 primarily as a load building and retention effort to encourage irrigators to switch from diesel to electric motors for irrigation, has evolved over the years to an energy conservation, load management and renewable resources initiative to promote new technologies, wise energy use and save co-op members money on their electric bills.

Among the EEP products offering energy savings and Tri-State-authorized incentives are energy efficient lighting, electric motors for agriculture and commercial use, heat pumps and air conditioners, as well as a wide range of Energy Star-rated appliances.

Tri-State partners with its participating member systems in administering this program to co-op consumers and some member systems also augment the EEP program with their own rebates and incentives.

“The improving economy, the increased availability and more attractive pricing of LED lamps and the evolution of better performance benchmarks in heating and cooling appliances have all served to bring more savings and value to the EEP program,” said Keith Emerson, member services relationship manager.

Beware of scam demanding payment for past due utility service balances

Beware-phone-graphic250Members of various rural electric associations and public power districts have received scamming calls demanding payment for past due balances on electric bills. The caller fraudulently poses as an employee of the utility and threatens to shut off electric service if the member doesn’t make a payment immediately via payment services at local gas stations or through money orders.

In the event you are contacted by someone demanding a payment for utility service, do not give them any money and report the incident to local police. If you are ever in doubt that you are doing business with an official utility employee, please call your local power provider to confirm.

U.S. Energy Department Honors Tri-State G&T and San Isabel Electric Association with 2014 Wind Cooperative of the Year Awards

AColorado-Highlands-Wind-Phase-1-Dedication--051250The United States Department of Energy (DOE) today recognized Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc., as the 2014 Wind Cooperative of the Year in the generation and transmission (G&T) cooperative category. Tri-State member San Isabel Electric Association, Inc. (SIEA), based in Pueblo West, Colo., was honored for wind energy development by a distribution cooperative.

The two power providers were selected by a panel of experts from the wind industry, utilities, government, national laboratories and cooperatives. The 14th annual awards were presented at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association TechAdvantage 2015 Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida. Accepting the award on behalf of Tri-State was Don Keairns, SIEA board member and representative on the Tri-State board of directors.

According to Tri-State Senior Vice President of Energy Management Brad Nebergall, the wholesale power supplier has been purchasing wind power since 1998 and pursued its first utility-scale wind project in 2009 with the power purchase of the full output of the 51-megawatt Kit Carson Wind Power Project, located in the service territory of Tri-State member KC Electric Association.

In 2012, Tri-State contracted for the full output of the 67-megawatt Colorado Highlands Wind Farm, a project that was expanded by 24 megawatts the following year. The association is currently working with a private developer on the 150-megawatt Carousel Wind Project near Burlington, Colo., scheduled to be online in 2016 after the completion of a major transmission line. Tri-State is currently considering both wind and solar projects submitted in response to a request for proposals issued in 2014.

“Including hydropower, renewable energy has been integral to our operations since Tri-State’s founding,” said Nebergall. “We continue to invest in technologies that diversify our generation portfolio while meeting our obligation to deliver reliable, affordable power to our members. Today over 20 percent of the energy we provide our members comes from wind and other renewable resources.”

In addition to its wind resources, Tri-State purchases all of the power from the 30-megawatt Cimarron Solar Facility in northeastern New Mexico. Tri-State also provides support for its members that participate in more than 50 megawatts of community-based distributed and renewable energy projects, including wind, solar, hydropower, landfill gas and recycled heat, in their service territories.

One of those members, SIEA, has been a leader in wind power development in Colorado dating back to the 2004 installation of three anemometer towers to assess the wind potential in Huerfano County. The data from those towers has assisted with educational research and renewables development in the area, leading to the 2013 commissioning of SIEA’s Huerfano River Wind Project. The largest community-owned, distributed-generation wind facility in the region, the 8-megawatt project today supplies five percent of SIEA’s annual kilowatt-hour requirements.

SIEA is now partnering with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for a demonstration project using remotely controlled water heaters and electric thermal storage units to absorb the intermittent wind power. “These solutions can help to break down the integration barriers for smaller scale distributed energy projects,” said San Isabel General Manager Reg Rudolph. “I am proud of the leadership San Isabel has shown in developing this project, creating a working model for others to follow.”