Archive for the 'Energy Efficiency' Category

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.

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


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.

Up to six solar gardens to be built in La Plata’s service territory

SolargardenteaseAccording to Indiana Reed, public information officer for Tri-State member La Plata Electric Association (Durango, Colo.), members of the co-op will have the opportunity to offset a portion of their electric bills with local renewable generation produced from up to six community solar gardens to be located in La Plata County. She said the projects are slated for completion by the end of this year.

Co-ops celebrate Earth Day

2014-Earth-DayToday is Earth Day, an opportunity to promote the environment and celebrate efforts to preserve our resources. Cooperatives across the country, such as Clay Electric cooperative in Florida, have implemented creative programs to help protect their service territories. For example, when Clay Electric closed a substation in a national forest, rather than leave the site as-is, it worked to restore the site to its natural habitat so wildlife could thrive. To learn more about this program and other initiatives, visit NRECA’s web page that encourages co-ops to share their stories.

Tri-State’s members adding solar facilities

Two of Tri-State’s member systems in New Mexico have recently added, or are planning to add, solar facilities to their renewable resource portfolios, while one Colorado co-op has a small solar garden in the works this spring.

Earlier this year, Otero County Electric added this 76-kilowatt solar garden to their system. It is owned and operated by the co-op.

Earlier this year, Otero County Electric added this 76-kilowatt solar garden to their system. It is owned and operated by the co-op.

By far, the largest of those three solar arrays will be Mora-San Miguel Electric Cooperative’s (Mora, N.M.) planned 1.5-megawatt solar plant slated for construction later this year by Standard Solar. Mora-San Miguel has signed a 25-agreement to purchase the output of the facility, which will be constructed approximately two miles east of the Storrie Lake Substation. The new solar plant will be owned and operated by Standard Solar.

Earlier this year, another New Mexico co-op, Otero County Electric Cooperative (Cloudcroft, N.M.), completed its first solar garden, which is owned and operated by the cooperative.

The 76-kilowatt facility is located adjacent to the co-op’s Alamogordo Substation. The solar garden is comprised of 253 panels producing a maximum of 300 watts per panel. Continue reading ‘Tri-State’s members adding solar facilities’

Tri-State-sponsored power line R&D to be part of new center planned at DU

Research shows that carbon core conductor (shown) can operate at higher temperatures and move more energy than conventional power line materials.

Research shows that carbon core conductor (shown) can operate at higher temperatures and move more energy than conventional power line materials.

Among Tri-State’s many collaborations to gain maximum leverage for its research and development dollars is an on-going project at the University of Denver (Denver, Colo.) that is focused on advanced carbon-core transmission line conductor analysis. This research is expected to eventually lead to the development of power lines that carry a greater amount of energy than existing traditional aluminum and steel conductor.

The University of Denver (DU) recently announced that this conductor testing will continue as part of a new research center that will be largely funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. DU, in collaboration with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the Michigan Technological University, received this five-year renewable grant to collaborate with corporations to further basic materials research.

The mission of the Center for Novel High Voltage/Temperature Materials and Structures is to provide a forum for industry/university cooperative research, including evaluation, design, modeling and the development of novel high voltage and high temperature materials and structures for energy transfer, aerospace, automotive and other applications. Continue reading ‘Tri-State-sponsored power line R&D to be part of new center planned at DU’

Tri-State to receive output of new 8-megawatt hydroplant beginning in June

The 10-year power purchase agreement that Tri-State’s board of directors authorized in August 2012 is expected to come to fruition this spring when the Tri-County Water Hydropower Project begins producing power on June 1 for the G&T from its newly constructed hydroelectric generation plant at the Ridgway Dam and Reservoir in Ouray County, Colo.

Construction is nearly complete on the Tri-County Hydropower Project, which will supply power to Tri-State beginning in June.

Construction is nearly complete on the Tri-County Hydropower Project, which will supply power to Tri-State beginning in June.

The new hydroplant features two generating units – a 7.2-megawatt generator and a smaller 800-kilowatt unit – that will produce up to 8 megawatts of capacity and approximately 24 gigawatt-hours of energy during an average water year.

Under the terms of the agreement with Tri-County Water Conservancy District, Tri-State will purchase power from the Ridgway facility during the months of June, July, August and September and the City of Aspen will buy the power produced at this facility during the other eight months of the year. Despite the shorter seasonal duration for Tri-State, these are typically the year’s higher output months and the association estimates that it will receive about 60 percent of the plant’s annual generation output.

The Tri-County Water Hydropower Project is within the service territory of Tri-State member, San Miguel Power Association (Nucla, Colo.) and is receiving station electric service from the co-op. Continue reading ‘Tri-State to receive output of new 8-megawatt hydroplant beginning in June’

Staff and membership personnel look at energy efficiency practices at Colorado dairy

Tri-State, in partnership with its member systems, is a strong supporter of promoting energy efficient practices and products through its long-standing Energy Efficiency Products (EEP) program that offers financial incentives for new technologies such as LED and induction lighting that help dairy operators reduce their energy costs.  In support of that endeavor, Tri-State member services staff, along with employees from United Power, Morgan County REA and High West Energy, recently (Feb. 20) boarded a bus to embark on an energy efficiency tour of a local dairy operation.

View of milking parlor at the Shelton Dairy near La Salle, Colo.

View of milking parlor at the Shelton Dairy near La Salle, Colo.

The tour, hosted by the Western Dairy Association, in collaboration with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the Colorado Energy Office, was of the 2,300-cow, Shelton Dairy near La Salle, Colo.

The purpose of the tour was to learn about some of the many energy saving opportunities that are available at these types of dairy operations and discuss some of the efficiency gains that have already been achieved as a result of an energy audit that was conducted at this farm with the help of EnSave, a firm that specializes in energy efficiency in agriculture, along with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Continue reading ‘Staff and membership personnel look at energy efficiency practices at Colorado dairy’

NREL’s Dr. Bryan Hannegan speaks to Tri-State Board

Tri-State director Jack Finnerty listens to Dr. Bryan Hannegan’s presentation at the January board meeting.

Tri-State director Jack Finnerty listens to Dr. Bryan Hannegan’s presentation at the January board meeting.

Tri-State’s board of directors welcomed notable National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) scientist and engineer Dr. Bryan Hannegan, who specializes in the field of renewable energy integration into the national energy infrastructure, as a guest speaker at yesterday’s monthly board meeting.

The presentation touched on the topics of future energy systems and their challenges, grid integration issues, the variability and forecasting of renewables, the impacts of generator cycling and more.

“The goal is to accelerate this clean energy future, but to do so in a way that’s durable – that doesn’t need a mandate, doesn’t need a subsidy, it just is,” said Hannegan.

Hannegan went on to discuss NREL’s approaches to addressing these issues in the laboratories of its state-of-the-art Energy Systems Integration Facility. The board and Tri-State’s senior management staff will have an opportunity to see the facility first-hand during a tour of the NREL complex near Golden, Colo. next week. Continue reading ‘NREL’s Dr. Bryan Hannegan speaks to Tri-State Board’

Output at Colorado Highlands Wind facility increased by 36 percent

Colorado-Highlands-Wind-project_expansionThe expansion of Colorado’s newest renewable energy facility is complete, with the Colorado Highlands Wind project now capable of generating 91 megawatts of electricity for Tri-State.

The facility originally came on-line in December of 2012, with 42 1.6-megawatt GE turbines able to produce 67 megawatts of power.  The expansion – which was announced in April and began construction in July – consists of an additional 14 1.7-megawatt GE turbines, increasing the facility’s total current capacity by 36 percent.

Tri-State has a 20-year power purchase agreement to receive all the electricity and environmental attributes from the wind farm, which is jointly owned by Alliance Power, Inc. of Littleton, Colo., and GE Energy Financial Services of Stamford, Conn.  It is located on 6,640 acres in northeast Colorado’s Logan County – in the service territory of Tri-State member co-op Highline Electric Association.

“Colorado Highlands Wind has been performing extremely well since being brought on-line late last year,” said Tri-State senior vice president Brad Nebergall.  “Since it was originally designed to accommodate 91 megawatts on the existing transmission system – and since Tri-State is always proactively pursuing projects that make sense for us and our member electric co-ops – the expansion of Colorado Highlands Wind was an opportunity we quickly embraced.” Continue reading ‘Output at Colorado Highlands Wind facility increased by 36 percent’

Historic Boulder Canyon Hydro cranks megawatts for Tri-State

The recently refurbished 5-megawatt Boulder Canyon Hydroelectric Plant that is now generating power for Tri-State under a five-year power purchase agreement was once the primary source of electricity for the then small community of Boulder, Colo.  Of course, that was 103 years ago, when electricity was more of a luxury than the necessity that it is today.

The historic Boulder Canyon Hydroelectric Plant began producing power in 1910.

The historic Boulder Canyon Hydroelectric Plant began producing power in 1910.

The Powering the West staff recently visited the Boulder Canyon hydro facility, which has produced power at this scenic mountain site west of the city since 1910.

Jake Gesner, City of Boulder hydroelectric manager, provided a bit of background on the historic facility. “When this plant was constructed, it included two 7-megawatt generating units, which were later upgraded to 10 megawatts,” he said.

At around the same time, another engineering marvel was taking shape elsewhere in the state. The Colorado Central Power Company was building the Shoshone Hydro Plant a few miles west of Glenwood Springs.

That hydro plant would include a 13-mile diversion tunnel and pipeline from the Colorado River and a 153-mile transmission line that extended all the way to Denver over rugged Hagerman and Argentine passes. For many years this line was regarded as the world’s highest transmission line.

Today, the Shoshone Hydro Plant plant continues to produce up to 14 megawatts of power for the customers of Xcel Energy.

Boulder Canyon hydro also claims some unique engineering aspects. When the plant was completed, it was noted as being the highest head (water pressure) hydroelectric facility in the western U.S. Water pressure at the plant is measured at an impressive 800 PSI during peak runoff periods.

Jake Gesner manages Boulder Canyon Hydro and seven other city-owned hydro plants. He is shown here with the brand new unit that now generates power for Tri-State.

Jake Gesner manages Boulder Canyon Hydro and seven other city-owned hydro plants. He is shown here with the brand new unit that now generates power for Tri-State.

The water source for Boulder Canyon hydro is derived from Barker Reservoir. The other components of the project consist of the 11-mile Barker Gravity Pipeline, Kossler Boulder Canyon Penstock and the plant itself, which now operates a single highly efficient 5-megawatt turbine/generator unit.

The City of Boulder’s hydroelectric department owns and operates a total of eight hydroelectric plants with a maximum combined capacity of 16 megawatts. The units are monitored and controlled remotely with a staff of three employees, including Gesner. This hydroelectric network also supplies Boulder’s municipal water requirements.

The revenue that Boulder collects from the power it produces at its hydroelectric projects is derived from Tri-State and Xcel Energy. Those funds are used to help offset the maintenance and operating costs of the city’s various facilities.


DMEA makes good on 100-year-old hydro plan

A unique hydroelectric project that was envisioned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation more than a century ago when the 6-mile Gunnison Tunnel was completed as part of a vast irrigation system in western Colorado’s Uncompahgre Valley, is now a reality thanks to Tri-State member Delta-Montrose Electric Association (Montrose, Colo.) and its project partner, the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association.

More than 100 years ago the completion of the Gunnison Tunnel was a major engineering feat that was acclaimed by President Taft.

More than 100 years ago the completion of the Gunnison Tunnel was a major engineering feat that was acclaimed by President Taft.

The opening of the Gunnison Tunnel in 1909 was hailed as a major engineering feat at the time, attracting dignitaries, noted newspaper media and even President Taft, who traveled to Colorado to officially dedicate the project.

The tunnel, bored through the walls of the Black Canyon as a water diversion from the Gunnison River, served as the capstone of a 575-mile network of canals and ditches which irrigate the many farms and ranches of the Uncompahgre Valley.

Although the new water supply network was considered a boon to the region’s agriculture industry, it was quickly noted by the media and the bureau’s engineers that a secondary benefit of this irrigation system could be to harness the fast-moving water to generate low-cost electricity to light the farms and small towns across the valley.

This unique fish gate at the mouth of the Gunnison Tunnel uses electrodes in the water to create a low voltage electrical field that deters fish – without harming them – from entering the canal system.

This unique fish gate at the mouth of the Gunnison Tunnel uses electrodes in the water to create a low voltage electrical field that deters fish – without harming them – from entering the canal system.

Fast-forward 100 years to 2009. Although a number of studies on the potential of hydropower on the  Uncompahgre Valley canal system were conducted over the years, it wasn’t until a century later, in 2009, that an agreement was finally reached between DMEA and the water users group to develop the $22 million South Canal Hydroelectric Project about five miles outside of Montrose. Continue reading ‘DMEA makes good on 100-year-old hydro plan’

PVREA’s new geothermal system earns a hefty Tri-State refund

A sign marks the new geothermal loop field, made up of 84 wells, to the north of PVREA’s headquarters.

A sign marks the new geothermal loop field, made up of 84 wells, to the north of PVREA’s headquarters.

Poudre Valley REA’s headquarters building was constructed in 1996.

Poudre Valley REA’s headquarters building was constructed in 1996.

Last year, at Tri-State system member Poudre Valley REA (Ft. Collins, Co.), necessity became the mother of invention.  It became clear that the aging air to air heat pumps which typically last for 16 years or so at the co-op’s headquarters was reaching the end of its mechanical life.

It was obvious that updating this aging system was imminent, and the board of directors agreed to a solution that would not only improve the comfort of the facility, but also be more in line with the co-op’s overall commitment to energy efficiency.

“One of the board’s goals was to be an example and to provide leadership for our members,” said Gary Myers, energy use specialist at PVREA.  Myers plans to continue sharing the story of this successful implementation with members and other energy professionals in the coming months.

Also called ground-source heat pumps, geothermal systems rely on stored energy from the earth for heating and cooling.  “The earth typically maintains a constant temperature of approximately 52 degrees,” Myers said.  “This consistency provides both cooling during summer months and heat during winter.”

Continue reading ‘PVREA’s new geothermal system earns a hefty Tri-State refund’

Colorado Highlands Wind growing from 67 MWs to 91 MWs

A technician’s red car at the base of this tower provides scale in viewing one of the new wind turbines at the Colorado Highlands Wind project.

A technician’s red car at the base of this tower provides scale in viewing one of the new wind turbines at the Colorado Highlands Wind project.

Colorado Highlands Wind, Tri-State’s largest resource for wind power, is adding a total of 14, 1.7-megawatt GE wind turbine generators this summer that will boost the output of the eastern Colorado facility from a maximum of 67 megawatts to approximately 91 megawatts of power production.

According to Steve Mayfield, who provides quality assurance for the site’s owner and operator, Colorado Highlands Wind, L.L.C., “Phase two construction of Colorado Highlands Wind is on track for commissioning and commercial startup by September 2013.”

Tri-State has a 20-year power purchase agreement to take all of the generation from the site, which began initial operation and production from 42, 1.6-megawatt wind turbines at the end of 2012.

A new turbine blade rotor assembly is ready to be hoisted to the nacelle at the top of an 80-meter wind tower.

A new turbine blade rotor assembly is ready to be hoisted to the nacelle at the top of an 80-meter wind tower.

Colorado Highlands Wind, which is located approximately 25 miles northeast of Sterling, Colo., is the second major wind resource for Tri-State. The association also has a power purchase agreement with Duke Energy to receive the energy output from its 51-megawatt Kit Carson Windpower site, located approximately seven miles north of Burlington, Colo. Continue reading ‘Colorado Highlands Wind growing from 67 MWs to 91 MWs’

Co-op-served school goes “green” for some big savings

Approximately 300 students from the Big Sandy School District — which is electrically served by Tri-State member co-op Mountain View Electric Association (Limon, Colo.) — will soon be hitting the books in a new pre-school through grade 12 building that features some of the latest engineering and architectural innovations, including a geothermal heat pump system that both the co-op and Tri-State will reward with some attractive monetary incentives through its Energy Efficiency Products program.

This unique building, now in its final construction phases in Simla, Colo., incorporates three separate academic wings — one each for the elementary grades, junior high and senior high — with a fourth wing housing athletics, the wood shop and the cafeteria.

This unique building, now in its final construction phases in Simla, Colo., incorporates three separate academic wings — one each for the elementary grades, junior high and senior high — with a fourth wing housing athletics, the wood shop and the cafeteria.

This unique building, now in its final construction phases in Simla, Colo., incorporates three separate academic wings — one each for the elementary grades, junior high and senior high — with a fourth wing housing athletics, the wood shop and the cafeteria.

It is regarded as a “high performance design” by the architects. The school’s floor plan has classrooms oriented along an east-west axis to capture maximum natural daylight and the building also incorporates good acoustical isolation between teaching spaces for a quieter learning environment.

“At the current electric rates that we are paying Mountain View Electric, we have roughly calculated a 10-year payback on the school’s heat pump system,” said Steve Wilson, Big Sandy School District superintendent.

This interior photo shows the nearly completed library at Big Sandy School in Simla, Colo.

This interior photo shows the nearly completed library at Big Sandy School in Simla, Colo.

“We have not completed all of the calculations for the qualifying rebates from Mountain View and Tri-State, but we are expecting that the heat pump system, LED lights and electric motors should add up to at least a $40,000 check to the school district,” said Ray Singmaster, rebate and electrician services supervisor for Mountain View Electric.

The new 83,000 square-foot Big Sandy School is scheduled for completion by mid-July — in time for the start of the new school year in August.

This project marks at least the fourth major geothermal installation in an academic building across Mountain View’s service territory. In 2009, Palmer Ridge High School, in Monument, received Energy Efficiency Products rebate checks from Mountain View and Tri-State totaling nearly $200,000.

United Power to harness power from “stranded” natural gas wells

Natural-Gas-WellIn another example of one of the many ways that electric co-ops are bringing value and innovative technologies to their member-consumers, Tri-State’s member system United Power (Brighton, Colo.) will soon be generating power from “stranded” natural gas wells in its service territory.

It is dubbed the BluBox Energy Project and named for the firm BluBox Energy, Inc. of Las Vegas, Nev., which has partnered with United Power to provide the energy modules that will utilize the natural gas from existing wells to fuel a series of small generators (approximately 200 kilowatts each) to produce energy that will be sold under contract to the electric cooperative.

The term “stranded” or “shut-in” gas wells refers to an estimated 3,000 wells in Colorado alone that are located too far from the existing natural pipeline network to economically establish a connection and bring it to the marketplace.

BluBox Energy’s manufacturing facility, where it fabricates the energy modules that will generate power from natural gas wells.

BluBox Energy’s manufacturing facility, where it fabricates the energy modules that will generate power from natural gas wells.

In the past, the comparatively less valuable natural gas emitting from the wells has been flared into the atmosphere to allow energy developers to recover and transport the more valuable crude oil that often resides in the same energy field. However, more stringent environmental regulations, imposed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, has strictly limited this practice.

“By harnessing this otherwise unused fuel to produce electricity, we expect to add up to three megawatts of distributed generation capacity to our system,” said Jerry Marizza, new energy program coordinator for United Power.

Last month, Tri-State’s board of directors authorized a Policy 115 contract in support of this local distributed generation project.

Marizza says that BluBox hopes to site its generation modules at up to 15 sites within United’s service territory. “The first generators are expected to be on line by late May or June,” he added.

United Power solar project is ready for its close-up

Hangar-160-UP-videoTri-State member system United Power (Brighton, Colo.) has finished construction on its 2-megawatt photovoltaic solar array, referred to as Hangar 160, in rural northern Adams County near the intersection of Highway 7 and Colorado Blvd. The project consists of 7,500 panels and is the largest electric co-op-served solar field in the state of Colorado.

Jerry Marizza, new energy program coordinator for United Power said, “It was a year and a half in the making, but once construction started it was basically a two month project from dirt clods to electrons.”

LED lights brighten classroom thanks to SMPA

installing-lights-in-classroomTri-State member co-op San Miguel Power Association (Nucla, Colo.) recently gave a $1,950 grant to the Positive Energy Committee at Ridgway Elementary School to buy LED lights for a classroom demonstration project to begin later this month. That committee is made up of eight fourth- and fifth-graders and their teacher.

For two months, students will compare electricity use in three classrooms: one with fluorescent tube lights, one with LED tube lights and the other powered by solar panels. Meters will measure the amount of electricity being used, the cost of power and carbon emissions. “Ultimately, we would like to be able to demonstrate good, better and best in terms of energy efficiency,” said Krista Javoronok, the committee’s teacher-adviser.

Tri-State issues RFP for renewable resources

Colorado-Highlands-Wind-project_090Tri-State issued a request for proposals for renewable energy supply on Feb. 13, which is aimed at taking advantage of current competitive market prices, while continuing to assist its member co-ops in Colorado and New Mexico in meeting their renewable portfolio standard requirements.

“Given the recently extended Federal Production Tax Credit and sustained competitive pricing in the renewable energy sector, we felt this was a good time to explore adding an additional project or projects to Tri-State’s renewable resource portfolio,” said business development manager (energy resources) Susan Hunter.

Hunter explained that the RFP is intended to solicit bids for resources that will begin construction prior to the end of 2013 in order to qualify for the Federal Production Tax Credit and be in service before the end of 2014. Continue reading ‘Tri-State issues RFP for renewable resources’

Major events that helped define 2012

Year after year, Tri-State strives to consistently deliver on its commitment to provide affordable and reliable electricity to its member co-ops while managing the risks facing the association (and the electric utility industry) and meeting its corporate objectives and financial goals. As always, there were significant events throughout the past year that shaped, impacted and defined the G&T’s operations — all of which have been captured in our annual “major events” document, housed in the media kit section of Tri-State’s web site (and a synopsis of which follows):

Craig-Annual-report-20031. Financial and operational results — Tri-State closed its 2012 books with $1.3 billion in total operating revenue and $52.8 million in net margins. Energy sales to the 44 member co-ops reached a record 15.7 million megawatt-hours, while non-member sales totaled 3.0 million megawatt-hours. The G&T’s member peak demand for the year occurred in July, topping out at 2,798 megawatts, up 5.4 percent from the previous year’s peak of 2,654 megawatts.

2. 2013 budget/rates — Tri-State’s board approved the association’s 2013 cost of service of $1.34 billion, the majority of which is allocated to fixed cost items and other committed expenses. The board also approved a 4.9 percent rate increase for 2013, which adjusts the average member whole rate to approximately 6.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. Overall, the G&T remains on solid financial footing, reflected by the three major rating agencies affirming Tri-State’s “A” rating during the year.

3. Integrating new resources — Tri-State made great strides throughout the year in integrating the operations of two facilities that were acquired in late 2011 – the Colowyo Mine in northwest Colorado and a 272-megawatt, natural gas-fired power plant located in Fort Lupton, Colo. (since named J.M. Shafer Generating Station in recognition of the former Tri-State general manager).

4. Power plant maintenance and upgrades — In power production, favorably priced blocks of replacement power – secured by Tri-State’s marketing group – allowed power plant employees to extend their planned outage timelines during the “shoulder” months (fall and spring). As a result, plant crews and contractors at Escalante, Craig and Nucla stations accomplished significantly more than the typical year of both critical and non-critical path projects aimed at boosting reliability and longevity at the facilities.

Nucla-Sunshine-construction5. Transmission improvements — Tri-State’s maintenance groups and contractors undertook a long list of improvement projects on the association’s network of transmission, substation and telecommunications sites throughout the service territory. Included in those projects was the long-awaited completion of the 51-mile, 115-kilovolt Nucla-Sunshine line and ancillary substations in southwestern Colorado.

Colorado-Highlands-Wind-project_1226. Renewable resources flourish — Tri-State’s renewable energy portfolio expanded in 2012 with the completion and addition of the 67-megawatt Colorado Highlands Wind project in northeast Colorado. In addition, by year-end Tri-State member systems had 28 local renewable projects – either on-line or planned – that are projected to provide up to a combined 41 megawatts of renewable generating capacity for their member-consumers.

7. Wildfires wreak havoc — Wildfires ravaged hundreds of homes, threatened lives and left a lasting scar across thousands of acres of torched timberland throughout several parts of Tri-State’s member service territory, in what was one of the worst fire seasons in recent history.  The two most devastating events in co-op territory – the High Park Fire and the Little Bear Fire – directly impacted the operations of member co-ops Poudre Valley REA (Fort Collins, Colo.) and Otero County Electric (Cloudcroft, N.M.), respectively, causing millions of dollars in property damage and disrupting service.

Tri-State, Empire Electric rebate $32,000 to local schools

Tri-State, in partnership with member co-op Empire Electric Association (Cortez, Colo.), assisted in helping support an energy efficiency lighting upgrade project that will translate into big energy savings for the Montezuma-Cortez School District in southwestern Colorado.


From left: Alex Carter, Jamie Haukeness, Melissa Brunner, with the school district, accept a Tri-State rebate check from Bill Mollenkopf, Empire and Tri-State director and Doug Sparks, Empire’s member services manager.

Last month, the staff of Empire Electric presented a check to school officials from Tri-State in the amount of $32,439 for a series of retrofits to more energy efficient lighting in a total of seven buildings owned by the school district.

The commercial lighting rebate is part of Tri-State’s long standing Energy Efficiency Products (EEP) program that is available to all of Tri-State’s members that promote energy savings to their member-consumers through more efficient lighting, heating, cooling and production products that are a part of the EEP program.

“This project was primarily for the upgrading of the older, T-12 fluorescent lighting to the more efficient T-8 lighting fixtures, as well as some upgrades to LED lighting,” said Keith Emerson, Tri-State’s energy marketing and energy services coordinator. “The rebates, coupled with the long-term energy savings that the school district will see on its monthly bill, is another way Tri-State is bringing added value to its members through the EEP program,” added Emerson.

Annual energy savings to the school district from this lighting upgrade is estimated at $50,000 according to Doug Sparks, member services manager for Empire Electric.

The check rebate presentation by Empire personnel to the school officials was held in the Cortez Middle School gymnasium, where a large number of lighting installations took place. The gym is now equipped with about 30 large motion sensor-equipped lights that are only on when the facility is in use, thus reducing unnecessary energy consumption.

Said Sparks: “The school lighting retrofit will not only reduce the district’s use of electricity by about 130,000 kilowatt-hours a month, but it also results in brighter and more effective lighting in the school classrooms.”

Member co-ops add more solar to their systems

The Hanger 160, a 2-megawatt solar site shown in this photo began producing energy for United Power on Dec. 5.

The Hanger 160, a 2-megawatt solar site shown in this photo began producing energy for United Power on Dec. 5.

This month, two of Tri-State’s member systems are adding significantly to their renewable portfolios with projects that will generate a combined maximum of 3 megawatts of solar power for their member-consumers. United Power’s (Brighton, Colo.) 2-megawatt photovoltaic solar array was brought on line last week and San Miguel Power’s (Nucla, Colo.) 1-megawatt community solar array is slated to begin operation later this month.

The 2-megawatt Hanger 160 project serving United’s consumers is sited in rural Adams County, near the confluence of Highway 7 and Colorado Blvd. This northern Colorado solar site comprises a total of 7,500 solar panels and is said to be the largest electric co-op-served solar field in the state of Colorado.

San Miguel Power’s nearly completed 1-megawatt community solar array is built on a 7-acre parcel in southwestern Colorado’s Paradox Valley, about 15 miles west of Naturita. According to Brad Zaporski, manager of member services for the electric co-op, it is currently the nation’s largest community-owned solar project.

San Miguel’s solar array contains a total of 4,680 solar panels, which will be eligible for purchase by its members at a cost of approximately $700 each.

Community solar projects are gaining in popularity among the association’s co-ops. Besides San Miguel, United Power, Poudre Valley REA (Fort Collins, Colo.), Delta-Montrose Electric (Montrose, Colo.) and Empire Electric (Cortez, Colo.) all have community-owned solar projects on their lines.

Kit Carson Electric dedicates solar projects

Tri-State member Kit Carson Electric (Taos, N.M.) has marked the initial operations of two solar power facilities that use differing technologies and ownership arrangements to harvest energy from the sun.

Kit Carson hosted the late August dedication ceremony at the Taos Charter School, site of a 98.7-kilowatt community solar garden, the first in the state. The ceremony also marked the start of operations at the 1.5-megawatt Blue Sky Energy array, located near the Rio Grande Gorge, about five miles north.

Blue Sky Energy, which came on-line Aug. 1, is made up of 5,280 photovoltaic panels and utilizes a tracking array that follows the sun’s path.  It is projected to produce about 3.3 million kilowatt-hours of energy in its first year.

The significantly smaller Taos Charter School array, with 420 fixed panels expected to produce about 160,000 kWh of energy annually, went into operation Aug. 22. It is noteworthy for opening solar power to community ownership.

The array is owned by the Clean Energy Collective, a Colorado company. Under the community solar model it pioneered, Clean Energy constructs, maintains and warranties the solar gardens, and Kit Carson acquires the power they produce.

Consumers can purchase the Taos Charter School array’s 235-watt panels for $845, and the co-op will provide a credit on their monthly bills for the energy produced. Panel owners receive tax credits and electricity discounts as if the panels were installed on their own roof.

Read more at Electric Co-op Today

Delta-Montrose Electric Assn’s South Canal hydro construction on schedule for 2013 completion

The 6-megawatt South Canal Hydroelectric Project, being developed by Tri-State member Delta-Montrose Electric Association (Montrose, Colo.) and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, is six months along on a construction timetable that projects completion by next summer (July 1, 2013), according to Jim Heneghan, DMEA’s renewable energy engineer.

The project, which is being developed on the aforementioned irrigation canal northwest of Montrose, is comprised of two active construction sites. The upstream site is where water will be diverted and sent through a penstock (an underground pipe) to the powerhouse, where a turbine/generator will convert the falling water to electricity. A second site, nearly two miles downstream, is the site of the tailrace, where the water is returned to the canal, via pipeline.

Heneghan said the concrete work on the powerhouse is about one-third complete and some of the major components related to the turbine/generator are scheduled for arrival this week. DMEA is also exploring the option of extending its use of the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds it is using to finance this $22 million project, to place an additional generator at a third site on the South Canal.

The South Canal hydro project intake site, where the water will be diverted into the powerhouse, is shown. Completion is slated for next summer.

Tri-State is also supporting this project through its board policy incentives that encourage its members to develop local renewable facilities in their service territories. When it is completed next year, the South Canal project will be the largest member-sponsored hydroelectric facility on the association’s system.

Other recent Tri-State and member hydro projects of note include the Tri-State board’s approval of a power purchase agreement to receive a portion of the output of a planned 8-megawatt hydro facility at Ridgway Dam in Ouray County, Colo., while Poudre Valley REA (Fort Collins, Colo.) became a customer of a 2.6-megawatt Carter Lake hydroplant west of Berthoud, Colo., in May of this year.

Board approves PPA from new hydro plant in Colo.

The association’s board of directors recently approved a 10-year power purchase agreement (PPA) between Tri-State and Tri-County Water Conservancy District from a new 8-megawatt hydroelectric generating plant that will be constructed at the existing Ridgway Dam and reservoir in Ouray County, Colo.

A new 8-megawatt hydro facility at the Ridgway Dam (shown) will supply power to Tri-State when it is completed in 2014.

“The unique aspect of this project is that the water district will have two PPAs for the electricity produced at the site,” said Brad Nebergall, senior vice president of energy management. “For eight months of the year the power will be sold to the city of Aspen and for the other four months – June through September – the plant’s output will be sold to Tri-State,” he said. Tri-State’s summertime portion of the generation is projected to be about 60 percent of the hydro plant’s annual energy output, according to Nebergall.

The project will be developed and operated by the water conservancy district under a Lease of Power Privilege arrangement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. It will be comprised of two generators – a larger 7.2 megawatt unit and an 800-kilowatt unit and is expected to be on line by the spring of 2014.

The plant site is located within Tri-State’s member system San Miguel Power Association’s (Nucla, Colo.), service territory and, as such, will receive station electric service from the co-op. The facility will connect to a nearby existing 115-kV transmission line that is scheduled to be transferred in 2014 from San Miguel Power to Tri-State ownership under the ongoing Board Policy 109 asset transfer program.

Annual output of this hydropower plant is estimated to be 24 gigawatt-hours during average water years.

PVREA dedicates community solar site

Some of the 21 owners of PVREA’s new community solar farm assemble in front of their panels.

Earlier this week (Aug. 28), the staff and board members of Tri-State member co-op Poudre Valley REA (Fort Collins, Colo.), held a dedication ceremony for the cooperative’s first community solar farm that is now in operation at their headquarters complex.Keynote speaker Tracee Bently of the Colorado Energy Office, praised PVREA for its innovation in bringing renewable energy to more of its member-consumers through this community solar project. “At the Colorado Energy Office we recognize the need for a diverse portfolio of power supply to the state’s electric consumers and we are proud to work with Poudre Valley, a leader in rolling out renewable technologies that provide clean, affordable power to its membership,” she said.

PVREA CEO Brad Gaskill said this project demonstrates the co-op’s commitment to offering its members affordable opportunities to invest in renewable energy.

“This community solar farm offers our members who are interested in investing in renewable power with an affordable alternative to more costly home systems,” said Brad Gaskill, CEO of Poudre Valley REA.

Poudre Valley’s new solar array began producing power for its members on Aug. 3. The site has a maximum capacity output of 116 kilowatts derived from a total of 494 photovoltaic solar panels.

The new array is fully subscribed by a total of 21 PVREA member-consumers, who paid $618 per panel after factoring in rebates and tax credits. The estimated combined annual savings for solar farm investors is $17,000 per year.

Tri-State’s member systems have taken a leadership role in developing community solar projects. A total of six member co-ops are either planning or have built community solar projects in their service territories.

The largest of those systems is a 1-megawatt PV solar array now under construction in San Miguel Power’s (Nucla, Colo.) service territory. It is currently the nation’s largest planned community solar project and is scheduled for completion later this fall.

Teachers head to class at Tri-State

NEED instructor Vernon Kimball (center) works with teachers attending this week’s conference for educators hosted and sponsored by Tri-State and its members.

As part of Tri-State’s ongoing program to reach out to educators to provide information on the energy industry that they can bring back to their classrooms and incorporate into their lesson plans, the association hosted its second annual teacher training conference this week at headquarters.

The 27 registered attendees were primarily middle school and high school teachers from school districts within Tri-State’s member service territories. The three-day conference wrapped up on August 9 with closing remarks from executive vice president and general manager Ken Anderson.

For this year’s teacher training conference, Tri-State worked in partnership with the not-for-profit National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project based in Manassas, Va., to conduct the program. NEED works with energy companies, agencies and organizations to bring balanced energy programs to the nation’s schools through teacher training and development.

The intensive conference agenda, conducted by retired teacher Vernon Kimball, was intended to engage its participants and goes beyond the typical lecture with handouts. The teachers at the conference are challenged with a variety of energy problems and exercises that test their energy knowledge as well as arm them with lots of materials and ideas for bringing more energy-related curriculum into their classrooms. Continue reading ‘Teachers head to class at Tri-State’

Cheyenne maintenance crew tries out new insulator testing equipment

Tri-State’s east-side line personnel conducted field exercises with new insulator diagnostic equipment on LRS-Story line.

Some transmission personnel from Tri-State’s Cheyenne maintenance facility were on site this week on the 345-kilovolt Laramie River Station to Story Substation right-of-way northeast of Cheyenne to conduct field exercises on insulator testing devices provided by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), based in Palo Alto, Calif., and Positron Inc., based in Canada.

Tri-State is a member of EPRI, which is a research and development organization in support of advancing new technologies in the electric utility industry. As such, the association was the recipient of one of the institute’s new insulator testing devices with the capability of testing the operating performance of polymer insulator strings when they are either in or out of service.

Most of the available insulator testing equipment in use is only designed to test porcelain or glass-based insulators. Tri-State uses both polymer and porcelain insulators on its transmission system; however, many new transmission lines are designed for polymer insulator applications, according to Linwood Blacksmith, east-side line superintendent.

“Also, we’re finding that some of the insulators that are being shipped to us from foreign countries are of inferior quality and may require testing before they are placed in service, which makes the EPRI tester useful to us,” said Tyson Lies, Wyoming line foreman.

Tri-State linemen Travis Berg and Dustin Thompson test an insulator string on the LRS-Story line.

Another company, Positron, was also on site this week to offer its line insulator testing products to the line crew members in Cheyenne. After a briefing and electronics set-up session at the field office, Lies and his crew proceeded to the energized LRS-Story line to conduct some real-world testing of the Positron equipment.

Testing insulators on each line phase on the tower required both an aerial platform truck and crew members to climb the tower to access the insulators on the center line phase. The Positron insulator testing device is attached to the end of a “hot stick” (a special fiberglass pole for working on energized lines) and a device known as a sled is moved across the insulator bells to calculate the electrical field, which helps line personnel determine the integrity of the insulator strings.