Archive for the 'Renewable Energy' Category

Silicon Ranch and PVREA Announces Energization of Local Solar Facilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

PVREA to add 8 megawatts of solar capacity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2014, 24 percent of the energy Tri-State and its member systems delivered to cooperative members was generated from renewable resources – one of the top ratios among electric utilities in the nation.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

First U.S. offshore windfarm under construction

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

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]

 

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.

Tri-State, members continue to expand renewable portfolios

Both Tri-State and its member systems in Colorado and New Mexico continue to seek opportunities to expand their energy resources mix to include renewables such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power.

On the Tri-State side of the renewable list, a significant portion of the energy it provides to its members is derived from renewable resources, including hydropower, wind and solar.  Tri-State delivers to its members 704 MW of renewable hydropower generated  from facilities across the west.  

DMEA’s South Canal Hydroelectric Plant is the largest local renewable project (in terms of capacity output) in the membership.

DMEA’s South Canal Hydroelectric Plant is the largest local renewable project (in terms of capacity output) in the membership.

Most of Tri-State’s purchased renewable resources are derived from two Colorado-based wind farms totaling 142 megawatts of wind capacity and the 30-megawatt Cimarron Solar Facility in northeastern New Mexico.

In 2013, the association signed an agreement prompting the expansion of the Colorado Highlands Wind farm in northeastern Colorado. Last fall, the site grew from 67 megawatts of capacity to 91 megawatts of output for Tri-State under a power purchase agreement. Continue reading ‘Tri-State, members continue to expand renewable portfolios’

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 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’

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’

United Power shows off Colorado’s largest co-op-sponsored solar site

Left to right: United Power CEO Ron Asche, Jerry Marizza, also with United, Everod and Claudia Samuel of Samuel Engineering, and United Power’s director of external affairs Troy Whitmore.

Left to right: United Power CEO Ron Asche, Jerry Marizza, also with United, Everod and Claudia Samuel of Samuel Engineering, and United Power’s director of external affairs Troy Whitmore.

Tri-State member system United Power (Brighton, Colo.) hosted an open house at its 2.28-megawatt Hanger 160 Solar Project yesterday (July 22) in rural Adams County, about 20 miles north of Denver.

Although the 10-acre, photovoltaic (PV) solar array has been generating renewable energy for the co-op’s 70,000 member-consumers for more than three months, this was the first opportunity for the co-op’s staff to invite its members, directors and other local officials to have a first-hand look at what is being called the largest PV solar system in Colorado that is directly tied to a distribution network.

United’s staff provided visitors with breakfast and guided tours during the morning event.

“The Hanger 160 Solar Project is a great example of one of the ways that we are demonstrating renewable and other alternative energy solutions to our membership,” said Troy Whitmore, director of external affairs for the co-op. United Power is also the first and only Tri-State member co-op to purchase up to 3.2 megawatts of generation fueled from landfill gas — collected at the Erie Landfill site in northern Colorado.

Tri-State supports the development of local renewable energy projects by its member systems with financial incentives and assistance, as approved by the association’s board of directors.

Continue reading ‘United Power shows off Colorado’s largest co-op-sponsored solar site’

Historic Boulder Canyon Hydro to generate power for Tri-State

The refurbished 100-year-old Boulder Creek Hydro roject begins generating electricity for Tri-State this month.

The refurbished 100-year-old Boulder Creek Hydro roject begins generating electricity for Tri-State this month.

A more than 100-year-old hydroelectric plant will soon be producing renewable energy for Tri-State under a five-year power purchase agreement with the City of Boulder that was authorized by the association’s board at its June meeting.

The historic power plant, constructed in 1910 on the Boulder Creek, west of Boulder, was originally designed with two 10-megawatt units generating power from water derived from the Barker Reservoir through a gravity fed pipeline. During the 1950s, the facility also began supplying municipal water to Boulder.

The generating station was owned and operated by Public Service Co. of Colorado until 2001, when it was purchased by the City of Boulder. At that time, the aging facility was nearing the end of its useful life, with only one of the 10-megawatt units still in operation.

In 2009, the project received funding of $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, which allowed for a complete modernization of the plant. The refurbishment, which included replacing the still functioning 10-megawatt unit with a more efficient 5-megawatt turbine/generator and upgrading the transformers, wiring and other operating equipment at the site, was completed in 2012. One 10-megawatt unit remains at the site for historical purposes. Continue reading ‘Historic Boulder Canyon Hydro to generate power for Tri-State’

Gov. Hickenlooper signs controversial renewable energy bill into law

On June 5 Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law SB 252, a hotly-contested piece of legislation passed by both chambers of the Colorado Legislature that doubles the renewable energy requirements for Tri-State.

HickenlooperSigning_PTWThe new law will require Tri-State to derive at least 20 percent of its power supply from renewable resources by 2020 — twice the amount the G&T was obligated to meet under existing legislation that was passed in 2007.

Tri-State, the Colorado Rural Electric Association and a broad range of stakeholders — including the state’s leading business groups, rural coalitions, agricultural producers and labor unions — joined forces to oppose the bill and asked the governor to veto it.

“We met with Governor Hickenlooper twice to discuss rural communities’ significant concerns with the bill,” said Kent Singer, executive director of the Colorado Rural Electric Association. “By the time the bill arrived at his desk, the many flaws in the bill could be addressed only with a veto. We asked him to veto the bill and convene an inclusive stakeholder process that could have led to a compromise.”

The new law will impact Tri-State’s current operations and its ongoing efforts to develop additional renewable resources.

“We shared with the Governor how we are meeting our obligation under the existing renewable energy mandate and how the bill introduces new risks for our existing facilities and renewable projects that were planned prior to the introduction of the bill,” said Tri-State general manager and executive vice president Ken Anderson. “Regrettably for rural Coloradans, the Governor chose to sign a flawed bill into flawed law.”

Tri-State will continue to evaluate the new law to determine appropriate next steps to best protect the interests of its member co-ops, their member-owners and the communities that depend on the association’s existing facilities.

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.

Expanded renewable energy bill speeding through Colorado legislature

SB-252-KEA-Ad_City-WaysThe proposal to increase the amount of renewable energy that Tri-State must deliver to its Colorado member co-ops has received preliminary approval in the Colorado House of Representatives – and could be up for its final vote this week.

As introduced on April 3, Senate Bill 252 — sponsored by state Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver — would require the state’s electric co-ops with more than 100,000 meters, and utilities that generate and supply electricity on behalf of member co-ops (like Tri-State), to get 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. The bill was approved by the Senate on April 15.

But the House last week cut the mandate from 25 percent to 20 percent by 2020. It passed the House on second reading late Friday and was scheduled for a third vote in that chamber yesterday.

Even with the amendment, Tri-State, its member co-ops and the Colorado Rural Electric Association continue to oppose the legislation – which would cost the G&T and its member systems billions of dollars to comply with the higher requirement.

“It’s still unreasonable and unachievable and would do considerable economic harm to rural Colorado,” said Dave Lock, Tri-State’s senior manager of government relations. Continue reading ‘Expanded renewable energy bill speeding through Colorado legislature’

Colorado Highlands Wind facility to expand by 36 percent

Colorado-Highlands-Wind-expansionColorado’s newest renewable energy facility is already growing.  The current 67-megawatt Colorado Highlands Wind project – from which Tri-State receives 100 percent of the power – is expanding to 91 megawatts.  Construction, using 14 GE turbines, is expected to commence in July and be completed this fall.

Tri-State has a 20-year power purchase agreement to receive all the electricity and environmental attributes from the facility, which is jointly owned by Alliance Power, Inc. of Littleton, Colo., and GE Energy Financial Services of Stamford, Conn.  The wind farm was constructed in 2012 and became operational in December.  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.  “The original engineering and design accommodated up to 91 megawatts – which is the maximum that the existing transmission interconnection can support.  So now that the additional 14 turbines are available, we are pleased to move forward with its full build-out after Tri-State’s board of directors approved the expansion at its February 2013 meeting,” he said.

“Colorado Highlands Wind is pleased to enable Tri-State to complete the original vision of the project, capturing its full efficiency and benefits,” said Jim Michael, managing member for Colorado Highlands Wind.

Colorado-Highlands-Wind-expansion_02The expansion coincides with an RFP (request for proposals) process for additional renewable energy supply that Tri-State is currently undertaking.  Tri-State issued the RFP in mid-February and is presently analyzing the proposals that were submitted by the April 2 deadline – and intends to review a short list of the top prospects with its board of directors within the next couple of months.

“The current competitive pricing in the renewable energy sector – particularly wind – encouraged us to explore market opportunities to add an additional project or projects to Tri-State’s renewable resource portfolio through the RFP process,” Nebergall said.  “At the same time, we realize the value we’ll be receiving through the Colorado Highlands Wind expansion.”

Colorado Highlands Wind is currently one of three utility-scale renewable energy facilities from which Tri-State receives all of the electrical output and renewable energy credits.  In 2010 the wholesale power supplier began purchasing the electricity generated at the 51-megawatt Kit Carson Windpower Project in eastern Colorado as well as the 30-megawatt Cimarron Solar Facility in northeastern New Mexico.

In addition, Tri-State’s member co-ops have another 45 megawatts of local, community-based renewable and distributed generation projects in operation or scheduled to be operational later this year.

Tri-State and its member co-ops oppose misguided legislation

On April 3, a bill was introduced in the Colorado Senate aimed at Tri-State and its member co-ops which would require Tri-State to generate 25 percent of the power it sells to its Colorado members from renewable resources by 2020.

CO_State_capitolThe measure would essentially replace the current renewable energy obligation of 10 percent by 2020, which was passed in the Colorado Legislature with support by Tri-State in 2007 – and which the association is on track to meet.

If enacted as written, the proposed legislation could potentially cost Tri-State and its members up to $4 billion over the next 20 years, which is one of several reasons Tri-State and the Colorado Rural Electric Association have engaged resources to oppose it.

“Fundamentally, the manner in which this bill was hastily written and introduced represents a flawed process,” said Tri-State executive vice president and general manager Ken Anderson. “Despite our willingness to do so, we, nor any other rural Colorado constituents who will be deeply impacted by this mandate, were not provided the opportunity to provide any input. It is irresponsible – not to mention probably unachievable – and could cost Colorado electric cooperatives and their member-owners billions of dollars.”

After a Senate committee’s initial hearing on April 8, which involved seven hours of testimony, the bill passed by a 3-2 vote along party lines.

“We are receiving significant support from both rural and urban interests, from the state chamber of commerce to agricultural producers to our labor unions.  Together we are sending a strong message to legislators and the governor to do the right thing by rural Colorado,” said Dave Lock, Tri-State’s senior manager of government relations.

Part of that pressure includes Tri-State’s communications and public affairs team working, with strong support from its members and partner organizations, to help spread the message in an effort to raise public awareness and action. As a result of those activities, The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Pueblo Chieftain have all quickly weighed in with strongly worded editorials opposing the bill.

The bill is currently on the Senate floor for debate. If it passes the Senate, it would transfer to the Colorado House of Representatives, where it again would receive a committee hearing, then be debated on the House floor. If the bill gets that far and passes the House, it would go to Gov. Hickenlooper for his signature; or, he could veto it. The process is expected to take at least two weeks, perhaps longer. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 9.

The Rural Economic Action Alliance (REA-A), which is supported by Tri-State and CREA, is currently running Keep Electricity Affordable radio commercials and online ads across Colorado, along with activating its 20,000 plus grassroots supporters. Electric cooperative advocates are encouraged to support the Keep Electricity Affordable initiative as well as using CREA’s Take Action Network.

Tri-County Water Hydropower Project progressing ahead of schedule

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

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

Tri-State is moving closer to receiving its permit to begin construction of the interconnection station and transmission lines from the Tri-County Water Hydropower Project located at Ridgway Reservoir (Ouray County, Colo.), with approval of the Bureau of Reclamation’s recently drafted environmental assessment of the plant site in view.

The association hopes to begin construction in June and finish the Ridgway Dam Substation by November or December of this year — months ahead of the original schedule — and enter into a 10-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Tri-County Water Conservancy District.

“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, Tri-State’s 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 8-megawatt hydro facility 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 the Ridgway plant is estimated to be 24 gigawatt-hours during average water years. The project, comprised of two generators — a larger 7.2 megawatt unit and an 800-kilowatt unit — is being developed and operated by the water conservancy district under a Lease of Power Privilege arrangement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

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.

Video highlights of Colorado Highlands Wind dedication

Colorado-Highlands-Wind-dedicationAs previously reported, on Dec. 20 Tri-State helped celebrate the completion of Colorado’s newest renewable energy facility – the Colorado Highlands Wind project on the state’s eastern plains. The association has a 20-year agreement to purchase all the electricity generated at the 67-megawatt wind farm.

Tri-State’s communications team was on hand at the event and has put together a three-minute video highlight reel of the day’s events.