Acquisitions, system improvements highlight 2011 activities

Tri-State’s purchase of the Fort Lupton Generating Station and the acquisition of Colowyo Mine by Tri-State subsidiary Western Fuels-Colorado, along with a flurry of field projects aimed at making improvements to the association’s power delivery system were among the major highlights of a very busy and productive year for the association.

Colowyo Mine uses two draglines and truck and shovel operations to extract coal for use at Craig Station.

Western Fuels-Colorado – a fuel supply cooperative in which Tri-State is the majority owner – officially became the new owner and operator of Colowyo Mine on Dec. 1, 2011. The northwest Colorado mine, which was already under contract to deliver up to 2.3 million tons of coal annually to Craig Station, is now aligned in an ownership role to ensure a reliable and affordable supply of fuel for the life of the plant.

During the same year-end time frame, Tri-State also completed the purchase of the 272-megawatt, natural gas fueled, combined-cycle Fort Lupton Generating Station in northeast Colorado. This plant, which employs 23 people, helps meet the association’s need to add intermediate generation and provides important load-following capabilities in a high growth area of the power supply system.

In order to meet continued member load growth, particularly in the areas serving expanding energy development, Tri-State maintenance crews and contractors were engaged in numerous transmission and substation projects throughout the association’s 200,000 square-mile power delivery system.  Among those ongoing projects is the Nucla to Sunshine transmission line in southwestern Colorado, which wrapped up its second year of a three-year timeline for completion.

The 56-mile, 115-kilovolt Nucla to Sunshine transmission project closed out the second year in its three-year timeline for completion.

Tri-State also is working closely with all of its members who have chosen to participate in the asset transfer of all or a portion of their 100-kilovolt and higher facilities to Tri-State ownership. This major undertaking will ultimately transfer up to 260 transformers and 500 miles of transmission line to Tri-State. The goal of the asset transfer is to improve reliability and help the association centralize and more effectively manage federal regulatory compliance rules.

The association’s generation fleet recorded an exemplary year in 2011.  In all cases, Tri-State’s generating units exceeded industry standards for availability, while plant and field location employees recorded improved safety performance at many Tri-State sites.

Late in the year, the Tri-State board authorized a payment of $20 million in capital credits to the member systems, marking the 23rd consecutive year that the G&T has returned patronage capital to its co-ops. In other financial actions, the G&T bolstered liquidity in 2011, through a new $500 million, 5-year credit facility. The funds will be used for working capital, capital expenditures and other corporate purposes.

Reflecting on the past year, Tri-State executive vice president and general manager Ken Anderson said, “I believe we have a lot to be pleased about as we look back on a solid year of accomplishments made possible by our dedicated board, staff and membership. We’ll be facing many challenges going forward, but I feel we are well positioned to meet our goals and deliver on our mission as we continue to mature the programs and processes that we have in place.”

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