The 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]
Archive for the 'Resource Planning' Category
Siting, securing the land rights, constructing and finally commissioning a new substation can sometimes be an arduous and, at times, even a contentious process. But, thankfully, that was not the case when Tri-State, member Continental Divide Electric Cooperative (Grants, N.M.) and the Laguna Pueblo Tribal Council worked together to improve electric service on their reservation.
The culmination of that cooperative spirit and hard work was celebrated recently (March 21) with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the brand new Old Laguna Substation serving the nearby Native American village of Laguna, N.M.
The substation ceremony was hosted by Continental Divide Electric and attended by a crowd of about 50 people, including the Governor of the Pueblo and members of Laguna’s tribal council, Continental Divide’s general manager, board members and staff, Tri-State employees directly involved in the project and others who played a role in adding the new substation to the power supply system. Continue reading ‘New substation brings improved service to Laguna Pueblo tribe in N.M.’
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’
Credit Craig Station employees who are making the most out of a difficult situation that occurred on Sept. 7 when a water induction event on the plant’s Unit 1 turbine/generator caused significant damage resulting in an unscheduled outage that will keep that unit off line until mid-December.
“We’ve moved up our planned 2014 minor spring outage to right now to take advantage of the downtime while the turbine is being repaired to complete a fairly long list of maintenance and capital projects that we had planned for next year,” explained Rick Johnson, Craig Station’s plant manager.
“With the repairs that we are doing on the turbine, coupled with our rescheduled routine outage activities, we should be well positioned to reliably operate Unit 1 until its next scheduled major outage in 2016,” Johnson said.
Another potential silver lining to the unfortunate outage event was the discovery of a ground fault during a diagnostics check on the Unit 1 generator field that, if not corrected, could have caused a costly and lengthy electrical failure on the unit, according to engineering superintendent Dana Gregory. The corrective measure – a generator field rewind – will also be accomplished within the projected turbine repair timeframe. Continue reading ‘Craig Station employees make the most of downtime needed for unplanned outage’
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.
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.
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’
Editor’s note: The following has been excerpted from a recently published column by Tri-State senior vice president/transmission Joel Bladow that will appear in the spring 2013 issue of Tri-State’s quarterly magazine, Network.
Tri-State crews and contractors are ramping up for another busy year of transmission maintenance and improvement activities aimed at providing continued efficient and reliable service to our member systems.
Ongoing system improvements are necessary to keep pace with demands on our system and are required to serve the growing loads of our member co-ops.
In 2013 and beyond, increased activity is anticipated in the ongoing asset transfer program that was established in 2010. This is a voluntary program which allows Tri-State’s member systems the option of selling all of their existing power delivery equipment that is 100 kilovolts or greater to Tri-State.
During the next several years, these transactions are expected to double the transformer inventory and add hundreds of miles of transmission and scores of circuit switchers, battery systems, substation control buildings and other equipment owned by our member co-ops.
Also in the pipeline, National Environmental Policy Act and local permitting activities are expected to be completed this year, which will enable construction in 2014 of the 65-mile, 230-kilovolt Burlington to Wray transmission line in eastern Colorado.
We also have begun the planning process to provide vital system upgrades to southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley. The proposed 118-mile, 230-kV San Luis to Carson Transmission Project, which would extend along a southerly route from the San Luis Valley Substation into northern New Mexico, presents an alternative solution to bolstering reliability in that region.
Tri-State is guided in all of these endeavors by the primary goal of improving the performance and efficiency of the entire system while safely and reliably delivering power to our member systems at the lowest possible cost.
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):
1. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
With staff from Tri-State’s Environmental Services and Communications & Public Affairs groups in attendance, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) this past Friday (March 16) repealed the last of four misguided regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The unanimous 5-0 vote – with two EIB members recusing themselves – is considered a regulatory victory for the nearly 200,000 residential, agricultural and business member-owners of Tri-State’s 12 member cooperatives in New Mexico.
Adopted in 2010, the first three regulations sought to impose a cap-and-trade system; that set of rules was repealed earlier this year by the EIB. The fourth regulation would have imposed a hard emissions cap that would have required power plants and other carbon emitters statewide to cut CO2 releases by three percent per year beginning in 2013. As several expert witnesses testified, however, the rule would have had few tangible benefits for the environment and little or no influence in encouraging other state or federal regulators to enact greenhouse gas initiatives of their own.
What the rules would have done is hurt small businesses, families and agricultural producers from many of the poorest parts of New Mexico. Tri-State’s own estimates predicted that imposition of the 2010 regulations would have caused the state’s GDP to decline by $317 million to $1.3 billion through 2030 and employment to generate 322 to 1,511 fewer jobs by 2020 – all while causing, at best, only a 0.004 percent to 0.006 percent average annual reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.
Tri-State was joined by several partners in opposing the regulations and working to secure their repeal, including staff and members from the New Mexico Rural Electric Cooperative Association, New Mexico Oil & Gas Association, the City of Farmington, PNM, El Paso Electric and more than 18,000 followers of the Keep Electricity Affordable campaign who made their voices heard.
The association’s board of directors approved Policy 115 generation contracts between Tri-State and two of its member systems for a total of three renewable projects at the March board meeting held earlier this week (March 13-14) in Westminster.
At Poudre Valley REA (Fort Collins, Colo.), the co-op recently announced the development of a 100-kilowatt solar garden by Clean Energy Collective, LLC, to be constructed this summer adjacent to the co-op’s headquarters building in Fort Collins. Under the terms of the agreement, Clean Energy Collective will own and operate the solar site and sell the output to Poudre Valley. The co-op, in turn, will provide its member-consumers with the opportunity to purchase solar panels to offset their electric use.
Within the service territory of San Miguel Power Association (Nucla, Colo.), a larger scale – one megawatt – community solar project, in which its members will be invited to subscribe, is also being developed this summer by the aforementioned Clean Energy Collective. The solar facility will be constructed in the Paradox Valley, west of Nucla.
Also, being added to San Miguel’s renewable portfolio is the 500-kilowatt output of one of the nation’s oldest hydroelectric facilities. Constructed in the late 1800s, the owners of Bridal Veil Hydro Project near Telluride, Colo., have inked a power purchase agreement with the Nucla-based co-op that is scheduled to begin by the end of this month and extend through the end of 2026.
Tri-State has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement to buy the electricity from the state’s newest planned renewable energy resource, the 67-megawatt Colorado Highlands Wind project. The facility will be built on a 5,200-acre site in northeast Colorado’s Logan County, within the service territory of Tri-State member co-op Highline Electric Association, and is scheduled to be operational by the end of the year.
The project will use GE wind turbine generators and will be developed by Colorado Highlands Wind, LLC, which is jointly owned by Alliance Power, Inc. of Littleton, Colo., and GE Energy Financial Services of Stamford, Conn. Financial terms of the contract are being held confidential and were not disclosed.
“Increasing the amount of renewable resources in our energy mix further diversifies our overall generation portfolio,” said Tri-State executive vice president and general manager Ken Anderson. “It not only attracts investment to the communities our member co-ops serve, but it also keeps us on schedule in assisting our members to meet their obligations under state renewable portfolio standards,” he said.
“Highline Electric is pleased to be in position to provide service to Colorado Highlands Wind and we’re looking forward to working with them during the construction process,” said Mark Farnsworth, manager of the local electric co-op. “We also appreciate the economic development opportunities that the project provides in our service territory.”
The agreement culminates a process begun in October 2011 when Tri-State issued a request for proposals for renewable energy supply, which resulted in nearly 50 responses consisting of a variety of technologies and potential locations.
Colorado Highlands Wind will be the third utility-scale renewable energy facility 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.
On Feb. 1 Tri-State filed its first 10-year transmission planning document with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in compliance with CPUC Rule 3627. In support of that filing, and in an effort to update the public and interested parties on the association’s future transmission projects, an extensive revamping of the transmission planning section of Tri-State’s Web site has been completed.
The first ever filing for the PUC Rule 3627 was the culmination of an extensive planning process, mainly by the system planning, transmission engineering and the public affairs groups. Several stakeholder outreach meetings were held in 2011 to engage interested parties, followed by a comment period for people to provide their input on various projects that are on the association’s 10-year planning horizon.
“Through the eyes of the PUC, the purpose of the filing is so that stakeholders – including elected officials, county commissioners and city administrators – are engaged early and often in the transmission planning process,” said Sarah Carlisle, public affairs coordinator. “Since other utilities in the state must also file under this rule, it also may provide the commission with an opportunity to identify mutually beneficial projects in which utilities might partner and provide economic benefits to electric consumers in Colorado.”
Western Fuels-Colorado LLC, a fuel supplier that delivers coal under contract to Tri-State’s Craig Station and Nucla Station power plants in western Colorado, has completed its purchase of the Colowyo Mine from Rio Tinto.
Tri-State is the majority owner of Western Fuels-Colorado, which delivers coal produced at Colowyo Mine to the 1,304-megawatt Craig Station.
“Electricity responsibly produced with coal remains a remarkable value to serve the power needs of the region,” said Ken Anderson, executive vice president and general manager of Tri-State. “The purchase of Colowyo Mine ensures Tri-State will have a cost-based supply of coal to generate affordable power for the benefit of our member electric cooperatives.”
In 2010, the Colowyo Mine produced approximately 1.5 million tons of coal under contract for Western Fuels-Colorado for delivery to Tri-State. Total production of Colowyo Mine in 2011 was 2.3 million tons.
“The Colowyo Mine will help supply clean-burning coal to Craig Station for the expected life of the power plant,” said Mike McInnes, senior vice president of production at Tri-State. “Tri-State will continue to invest in Craig Station and in the development of clean coal technologies.” Continue reading ‘Western Fuels-Colorado closes on purchase of Colowyo Mine’
Tri-State staff members conducted their annual Transmission Planning Stakeholder Outreach Meeting earlier this week (Oct. 17) in Westminster — a public forum in which interested members of the community can participate and learn about the association’s future plans for its transmission system.
Main topics covered during the meeting’s half-day agenda included an overview of Tri-State, the overall planning process, the 2011–2020 loads and resources assumptions, the transmission capital construction plan, generation interconnections and an update on the OATT (open access transmission tariff) system.
Tri-State presenters at the public meeting were Blane Taylor, senior manager of power systems planning; Ray LaPanse, transmission interconnection administrator; and Ron Steinbach, senior manager, transmission contracts, rates & policy. Sarah Carlisle, public affairs coordinator, organized the event.
Among some of the noteworthy statistics presented at the meeting included the fact that average annual transmission usage has increased from a coincident peak network load of 2,442 megawatts in 2007 to 2,626 megawatts through August of 2011. Generation interconnection requests on the Tri-State system as of Oct. 12, 2011, totaled 21 (13 in Colorado, three in New Mexico, five in Wyoming and zero in Nebraska) for a total projected capacity output of 2,683 megawatts.
The 2011–2020 loads and resources assumptions call for the following new generation additions: 50 megawatts of wind at Lamar, Colo., by 2015; 50 megawatts of wind at Archer, Wyo., by 2015; 588 megawatts of combined-cycle generation at Lamar, Colo., by 2017; 100 megawatts of wind at Archer, Wyo., by 2018; and 200 megawatts of wind at Lamar, Colo,. by 2020.
The proposed SunZia Southwest Transmission Project, in which Tri-State is one of four sponsors, could be put on the development fast track by the Obama Administration. Last week, the administration’s new Rapid Response Team for Transmission named SunZia and six other large-scale transmission projects in the U.S. as priority projects that would be given accelerated permitting and construction treatment.
“Transmission is a vital component of our nation’s energy portfolio, and these seven lines, when completed, will serve as important links across our country to increase our power grid’s capacity and reliability,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “This is the kind of critical infrastructure we should be working together to advance in order to create jobs and move our nation toward energy independence.”
Transmission projects of this scope involve reviews by multiple federal, state and tribal agencies. Nine federal agencies and the White House Council on Environmental Quality will be a part of the Rapid Response Team. The team’s charge is to resolve inter-agency conflicts, coordinate reviews, permitting and other processes.
The SunZia project consists of two transmission lines and substations that will transport primarily renewable energy from Arizona and New Mexico to customers and markets across the southwestern United States. The length of the proposed route is approximately 460 miles. In addition to Tri-State, partners in the SunZia project are Shell WindEnergy, Southwestern Power Group and Tucson Electric Power.
Tri-State announced on Oct. 4 it has agreed to purchase a 272-megawatt natural gas-fired combined cycle power plant in Fort Lupton, Colo. The association will acquire 100 percent of the equity interests in the Thermo Cogeneration Partnership (TCP) from affiliates of Starwood Energy Group, a private investment firm focused on energy investments based in Greenwich, Conn.
TCP holds the assets associated with the power plant. The transaction, the terms of which were not disclosed, is subject to customary consents and is anticipated to close in approximately six weeks.
“The acquisition of this natural gas power plant complements our existing generating resources to serve our growing member cooperatives’ loads,” said Tri-State executive vice president and general manager Ken Anderson. “It further diversifies our resource fleet and provides important load-following capabilities in a high-growth part of our four-state system.”
In 2010, Tri-State’s load grew 5.5 percent – largely driven by industrial development in the rural communities served by electric cooperatives – which was approximately three times the national average growth rate for U.S. electric utilities.
Tri-State has been purchasing 150 megawatts of power from the Fort Lupton plant under a 10-year tolling agreement with TCP that began in July 2009. TCP is also under contract to provide 122 megawatts of capacity to a third party, which will continue to be fulfilled through 2019.
“We are very pleased to have reached this agreement with Tri-State,” said Brad Nordholm, CEO of Starwood Energy Group. “Tri-State is a well-managed organization that will be an excellent steward for TCP, its employees, its customers and the local community. This is an excellent result for Starwood Energy and our investors.”
The facility, which was constructed in 1994, currently employs a workforce of approximately 25 people.
“Our plans are to own the facility for the long-term. We are evaluating several modernization projects to enhance its efficiency and reliability,” Anderson said. “This has ben a well-managed plant and we look forward to eventually transitioning the existing employees into Tri-State’s workforce.
“The purchase of this power plant presented a solid business opportunity for Tri-State and a great value to our member electric cooperatives,” Anderson said. “We will continue to move forward to develop additional resource opportunities, keeping open all of our fuel and technology options in order to provide the most benefit to our membership.”
Editor’s note: The following article is based on a recent educational session provided by Tri-State staff to the association’s board of directors on the important role that the Western Area Power Administration and federal hydropower plays in helping Tri-State provide affordable power to its member systems.
The evolution of federal hydroelectric generating facilities is intertwined in the nearly 60-year history of Tri-State. From the time in 1952, when 26 electric co-ops and public power systems formed Tri-State until the early 1970s, the G&T essentially functioned as a non-operating utility delivering power produced at federal hydro facilities to its membership.
But, that would all change by the late 1970s and early ’80s, when Tri-State’s membership growth required further investment (beyond hydropower) in major baseload generating facilities such as Craig and Laramie River stations.
In keeping with its goal of informing the public about its resource requirements and guidelines, Tri-State staff members held their annual 2011 Electric Resource Planning Public Input Meeting on Monday (Aug.29) at the association’s Hub Thompson Conference Center in Westminster.
In addition to receiving public input on the association’s updated resource plan, this public forum is held to comply with requirements set forth by the Western Area Power Administration, as well as commitments to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
The presentation and discussions provided to the attendees offered an overview of what was done in the 2010 public participation process, detailed changes that will impact the updated resource plan and offered the audience an opportunity to provide input and comments on Tri-State’s plan.
Those who wish to comment on Tri-State’s electric resource plan also may do so on the association’s Web site through Nov. 1. The final 2011 Electric Resource Plan will be submitted to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission by Nov. 30.
Tri-State staff coordinating and presenting this year’s annual update of the association’s electric resource plan included Sarah Carlisle, Ken Reif, Kevin Cox, Blane Taylor, Mike Stortz, Rob Wolaver and Fred Stoffel.
The first meeting of the Siting of Electric Transmission Facilities Task Force was held last week at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The task force was created by S.B. 11-045, a bill sponsored by Sen. Michael Johnston of Denver and Rep. Claire Levy of Boulder. The task force is comprised of 17 members, all representing different stakeholder groups who have an interest in the transmission siting and permitting process in Colorado. The electric co-op sector is represented by Tri-State’s senior manager for transmission land rights and permitting Rick Thompson along with Colorado Rural Electric Association (CREA) executive director Kent Singer.
At the first meeting, the members of the task force selected PUC commissioner Jim Tarpey as the chairman and Thor Nelson, a Denver attorney, as vice chairman. The task force will have three additional meetings to develop recommendations for a report that must be submitted to the Colorado General Assembly by Dec. 1, 2011. Two of those meetings will be held in Pueblo and Burlington to give interested parties outside of the Denver metro area a chance to participate in the process. Continue reading ‘Tri-State joins Colorado transmission task force’
Last week, a dedication ceremony took place near Gillette, Wyo., for Basin Electric’s new coal-based power plant — Dry Fork Station. More than 1,100 people were in attendance for a program that featured Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.
Tri-State is a class-A member of Basin Electric and, as a result of the capacity provided by Dry Fork Station, will purchase an additional 75 megawatts from Basin under a long-term purchase power agreement.
Emceeing for the dedication event, Basin Electric’s CEO and general manager Ron Harper acknowledged that the completion of Dry Fork Station was an important accomplishment and stated the organization is “quite proud of that.”
Harper noted that more than $336 million was invested for environmental controls for the facility, making it one of the cleanest coal-based power plants in the country.
During the construction of Dry Fork Station, the work force peaked at more than 1,300 construction workers from more than 36 states. Impressive is the fact that these workers invested 6 million man hours without one lost-time accident. The 385-megawatt facility, which will power roughly 300,000 homes, now employs 83 full-time workers. Continue reading ‘More than 1,100 gather for Dry Fork Station dedication’
WestConnect, the transmission coordination organization comprised of electric utility providers throughout 16 western states and parts of Canada, including Tri-State, recently produced a “Western Initiatives” booklet that offers an overview of the organization’s many successes over the past decade in promoting and planning transmission markets in the West.
Among those accomplishments, over 2,200 circuit miles of transmission lines rate at 230kV or above have been planned, sited and constructed in the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, which overlays the aforementioned western region.
Nearly $6 billion in transmission investment is planned or proposed in the next few years. This potential investment in transmission in the West far exceeds the investment of all other North American Electric Reliability Corporation regions combined.
A key factor in successfully funding western transmission has been accomplished through a joint ownership model. Joint ownership allows multiple parties to aggregate their needs and effort in individual transmission projects to achieve critical mass and reduce individual risk and costs.
Efforts to identify efficient ways to integrate renewable resources into the transmission system have been undertaken in many western states, including those served by Tri-State’s member systems. These efforts bring together varied stakeholders to discuss environmental impacts, land use and other public concerns. By obtaining stakeholder input early in the process, future transmission lines will be sites more quickly and at a lower cost to consumers.
Serving on the WestConnect Steering Committee are Tri-Staters Ron Steinbach and Doug Reese.
A planned transmission project in eastern Colorado would resolve existing reliability concerns in Tri-State’s largest load area – a region that also has the largest forecasted load growth – and meet the individual needs of its partners in one coordinated undertaking.
The Lamar-Front Range Transmission Project, a joint effort of Tri-State and Xcel Energy, is estimated to include more than 400 miles of predominantly 345-kilovolt, double-circuit line, with one segment planned at 230-kV.
The project stemmed from a number of joint planning forums, including the Colorado Coordinated Planning Group and WestConnect, during which Tri-State and Xcel identified complementary transmission needs in southern and eastern Colorado.
Recognizing the common interests, the two electric utilities signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2008 to pursue transmission projects in the southern portion of the state on a joint basis. The projects identified in the MOU would strengthen the region’s power delivery infrastructure, serve growing electricity needs and provide for the interconnection of new energy sources.
Lamar-Front Range will also encourage future development of new generation resources and facilitate the delivery of that power to the utilities’ load centers. The region has been identified as housing some of the best wind generation prospects in Colorado, but this generation is impractical without adequate transmission capacity.
The project area includes the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Crowley, Elbert, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lincoln, Otero, Prowers, Pueblo and Washington.
A route has not been chosen for the project as Tri-State and Xcel are awaiting approval from the Colorado PUC regarding the need for the project. If all goes as planned, the line would be in service by 2018.
Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee for Clean Air and Nuclear Safety convened June 30 to discuss several of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new air emissions rules for power plants, which are expected to be issued in the near future. Tri-State’s senior vice president of external affairs, Barbara Walz, was among the expert witnesses who testified at the hearing.
Walz was invited to participate by Senator John Barrasso, R-WY, who serves on the committee. “It’s vitally important that members of Congress are aware of some of the misguided policies and regulations that the EPA is considering,” Walz said. “For example, if enacted, the proposed Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology rule could end up costing Tri-State and other electric
utilities billions of dollars over the next few years – and in our case, that would have a direct impact on our member co-ops and their end-use consumers.”
Other witnesses who testified included EPA assistant administrator Gina McCarthy, as well as Bryan Shaw, the chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, who recently said, “This [Clean Air Transport] rule, if we correctly understand its final form, puts at risk the economic future by jeopardizing power generation and those dependent on affordable electricity in Texas.”
Tri-State, and of course its workforce, still maintains that youthful glow after 59 years of providing wholesale, cost-based, reliable power to a diverse membership of electric cooperatives and public power districts.
The G&T owes its many milestones of success to a dedicated group of electric cooperative representatives who got together in the early 1950s at the Plains Hotel in Cheyenne, Wyo., to work out a plan to form a wholesale power supplier.
Dubbed with the catchy name, “Tri-State” for the Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming systems it would serve, the association was formed to manage its members’ hydropower contracts with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and build the power lines, substations and generating stations that would soon be needed to serve a growing membership.
The first Tri-State office opened in Loveland, Colo., in the early 1960s. Later it would be headquartered in Denver, Northglenn, Thornton and finally moved to its current Westminster digs in 1997.
With a few exceptions, the association has witnessed a steady and robust growth throughout its nearly 60 years, but there is no doubt that two key events led to its present-day emergence as one of the premier consumer-owned power suppliers in the West.
The first of those pivotal events was the G&T’s 1992 acquisition of a substantial portion of the assets of Colorado-Ute Electric Association and the second major milepost occurred in 2000, when Tri-State merged with Plains Electric G&T.
The Colorado-Ute action added 10 new Colorado co-ops, 508 megawatts of capacity and hundreds of employees from the former Montrose, Colo.-based power supplier. The merger with Plains Electric of Albuquerque, N.M., added 12 New Mexico members to Tri-State, the 245-megawatt Escalante Generating Station (near Prewitt, N.M.), significant transmission assets, 128 megawatts of additional purchased power from the Western Area Power Administration and most of the former Plains Electric workforce.
Today, the Tri-State employs approximately 1,200 people in four states, has owned or leased capacity at 16 generating plants – including two utility-scale renewable facilities – and holds assets of $3.8 billion.
Tri-State is proposing to modify and upgrade its 35 year-old Big Sandy-Lincoln-Midway transmission line — located in portions of Colorado’s El Paso, Elbert and Lincoln counties and serving Mountain View Electric Association – in an effort to improve reliability and strengthen the integrity of the line structures.
The project will upgrade the existing line and is not anticipated to result in substantial upgrades to existing access roads, nor will it involve construction of additional transmission lines, routes or increase in voltage of the existing lines.
Because Tri-State is requesting financial assistance from the Rural Utilities Service, the Big Sandy-Lincoln-Midway Transmission Line Improvement Project is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act and requires an Environmental Assessment (EA). The comment period for the EA is currently open with all comments regarding the EA required to be submitted in writing no later than May 2, 2011.
- More information regarding the project, as well as copies of the EA can be obtained by visiting the project’s recently-updated website at www.tristate.coop/Transmission/BigSandy.cfm.
Tri-State G&T and Xcel Energy, are jointly pursuing a single transmission project (known as the Southern Colorado Transmission Project) to alleviate reliability challenges and serve as a focal point for renewable energy development in the south central part of the state.
A recent Denver Post editorial failed to mention many key points regarding the proposed project. First, the Post failed to place proper emphasis on the project’s dual purpose and need. This project isn’t just about renewable energy development; equally important is its need to solve a reliability challenge in south central Colorado, an area rich in agriculture and economic development opportunities. Second, the Post failed to mention the progress made in the development of renewable energy by both Xcel Energy and Tri-State. Finally, there is no mention of the utilities’ commitment to continued investment in renewable energy resources at a reasonable cost to both utilities’ rate payers.
Tri-State and Xcel Energy developed an opinion-editorial to respond where the Post fell short in its opinion and can be found here. CEO of San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative, John Villyard, also responded to the Denver Post editorial with a letter to the editor.
Additionally, responses have been developed to explain why alternatives going north out of the San Luis Valley not only fail to meet the purpose and need of the project, but are far more costly and would result in unnecessary impacts to the environment. These responses can be found here.
Tri-State filed its 20-year Electric Resource Plan with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on Nov. 30. The filing provides an assessment of Tri-State’s existing resource mix and electric sales forecast, and discusses various alternatives for meeting the future system needs of its 44 member cooperatives. The filing will also be submitted to the Western Area Power Administration.
The resource plan identifies a six-year resource acquisition period in which Tri-State could add new generation resources. In order to meet its member cooperatives’ renewable portfolio mandates and further diversify its generation portfolio, Tri-State will need to acquire additional renewable resources in the next three to four years. These resources are in addition to the new renewable resources from the 51-megawatt Kit Carson Windpower Project near Burlington, Colo., and the 30-megawatt Cimarron Solar photovoltaic project in northeastern New Mexico, as well as renewable energy projects developed locally by Tri-State’s member cooperatives.
Tri-State’s board of directors has approved the power supplier’s 2011 operating and capital construction budgets, which include significant investment in its transmission system to serve member loads and support system reliability throughout Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nebraska.
“As a member-owned, not-for-profit utility, Tri-State remains focused on affordably and responsibly serving our rural cooperatives’ electric needs,” said Tri-State executive vice president and general manager Ken Anderson. “We continue to bolster reliability, ensure environmental performance and invest in transmission and technology development that is key to our future.”
Tri-State’s 2011 capital construction budget includes $299 million for projects, including $160 million in transmission investments. Tri-State’s 10-year capital outlook for transmission estimates $1.2 billion in investments to ensure the association can meet member needs across its four-state, 200,000 square-mile service territory.
While several other utilities in the region are implementing rate increases, Tri-State’s 2011 operating budget of $1.2 billion calls for its wholesale rate to its member co-ops to remain stable – holding for the third consecutive year at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.
In mid-July, Tri-State completed a series of six public meetings that took place over a 12-week period and involved nearly 100 individuals. The G&T conducted the public participation process to solicit input on its 2010 Resource Plan that it is required to file with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission this fall and also to the Western Area Power Administration in early 2011.
This resource planning process not only meets the association’s regulatory compliance obligations, but it also produces data that will inform Tri-State’s business strategy development. The process has been lauded by the public participants for its transparency and professionalism.
All materials and presentations are available for download on Tri-State’s web site at www.tristategt.org/ResourcePlanning.
The process will continue through the summer as Tri-State staff members work to draft the filing that will project future needs and assess assets to meet the needs of Tri-State’s member systems reliably and affordably.
Another public meeting to review the draft resource plan is anticipated to be held this October once Tri-State’s board of directors has reviewed it.