Archive for the 'Tri-State' Category

McInnes testifies on Clean Power Plan at Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing

Tri-State CEO Mike McInnes

Tri-State CEO Mike McInnes

US Capitol Building, Washington DC – Tri-State works hard to keep electricity reliable and affordable for our members, and part of that effort includes the thorough review of any new regulations that would impact our industry.

Helping to elevate our association’s perspective to a national level, CEO Mike McInnes recently provided testimony at a hearing on the “Implications of the Supreme Court Stay on the Clean Power Plan” before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. 

In his testimony to the committee on June 9, McInnes emphasized how, “as a cooperative, Tri-State operates differently and has different risks compared to investor-owned and municipal utilities, a fact EPA ignored in the Clean Power Plan and why Tri-State and other cooperatives were active in the rulemaking process and challenged the rule in court.”

Unlike investor-owned utilities whose rate of return gives these utilities an incentive to build new infrastructure, cooperatives and their members bear the full cost of compliance. These costs are spread over fewer customers. Typically, cooperatives have 1-11 consumers per mile while investor-owned and municipal utilities average more than 35.

McInnes explained the efficiency of Tri-State’s coal generation fleet, the association’s significant investments in renewables and energy efficiency, and the challenges of operating across five states with varying responses to the stay of the Clean Power Plan.

Following the attention received by an article in Cornerstone Magazine by Barbara Walz, Tri-State senior vice president Policy & Compliance and chief compliance officer, McInnes was invited to testify before the committee. The article outlined the unique challenges cooperatives face with the Clean Power Plan as they work to deliver affordable electricity to members in rural communities.

Read McInnes’ testimony or watch the archived webcast of the hearing.

Tri-State G&T presents public comments about coal leases on federal lands

Reclaimed land at ColoWyo Mine in Craig, Colorado.

Reclaimed land at ColoWyo Mine in Craig, Colorado.

Today in Casper, Wyoming, Tri-State participated at a public comments meeting conducted by the Bureau of Land Management, an agency of the Department of the Interior (DOI), regarding the processing and issuing of coal leases on federal lands.

The DOI placed a moratorium on coal leases in January that will last until the agency completes a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). The purpose of the PEIS is “to identify and evaluate potential reforms to ensure the program is properly structured to provide a fair return to the taxpayers and reflect its impacts on the environment, while continuing to help meet the nation’s energy needs.”

Our Senior Environmental Policy Analyst Douglas Lempke submitted the following comments during today’s meeting:

Statement of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Public Scoping Meetings on Preparation of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for Federal Coal Leasing Program
Casper, Wyoming
May 17, 2016

Good Morning, my name is Doug Lempke and I am here to represent the views of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association (Tri-State).

Tri-State is a consumer-owned, not-for-profit, wholesale electric power supplier owned by 44 electric cooperatives that serve approximately 1.5 million consumers – primarily in the rural areas of Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.

We own and operate the Colowyo Mine, which has long-term federal coal leases with the BLM. The Colowyo Mine generates millions in federal royalties, with approximately half of these royalty revenues returned to the State of Colorado and local communities. Tri-State is also a participant in the Trapper Mine in Colorado and the Dry Fork Mine in Wyoming, which also have federal leases. And we receive coal for our Springerville, AZ facility from Peabody’s North Antelope Rochelle Mine and from Arch Coal’s Black Thunder mine.

The discussion regarding limiting access to federal coal and increasing royalty rates is nothing more than a continuing effort to artificially increase costs and discourage the use of affordable and reliable coal resources.

Increasing costs of federal coal will have a direct, adverse impact on our members and the communities they serve, but provide little actual benefit to the environment, since it will just shift coal development to other areas.

For not-for-profit cooperatives like Tri-State, any increase in fuel costs is directly borne by our members. And our member systems serve some of the most economically depressed communities in the region where residents can least afford to pay higher electric bills.

As BLM develops the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the Federal Coal Program, Tri-State strongly encourages you to consider in all proposed alternatives:

– The impact on the cost of electricity,

– Federal, state and local government dependence on royalty payments,

– The true cost to mine federal coal, including state and federal royalty payments, all bonus bids, ad valorem property taxes, ad valorem production taxes, sales and use taxes, severance taxes and AML fees,,

– New ways to simplify reporting and administrative burdens for all parties involved,

– The long term benefits that coal mining can have for the environment, specifically the reinvigoration of wildlife habitats which may be in decline or of poor quality to start, and

– The provisions of the mineral leasing act that specifically identify and mandate the development of these resources for the benefit of the American public.

Tri-State encourages BLM to include alternatives in the PEIS that maximize federal coal use while maintaining the current royalty rate, or even better, proposing ways to reduce it.

Some have argued that the “Royalty Rate” is too low to provide Americans with the appropriate return on its development, but when you add in bonus bids, severance taxes and other fees and taxes, the economic analysis becomes much more favorable to development of federal coal resources.

The idea that access to federal coal should be significantly reduced – or even eliminated – would be disastrous and should not be considered as a reasonable alternative in the PEIS. Curtailment or elimination of federal coal will simply shift the emphasis to the use of private coal, eliminate any royalty payments and increase electricity costs.

As a nation, we can continue using federal coal in the future to keep electricity prices low while meeting national goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While the current administration has advocated for the reduction of coal generation, it has not suggested federal coal production be eliminated.  In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that under the Clean Power Plan coal will account for approximately 30 percent of the country’s electricity generation in 2030.

This future coal can come from federal reserves, where there is more environmental oversight and provides significant revenue to American taxpayers, states and local communities or it can come from other sources without these benefits.

Tri-State employees give generously through clothing drive

To say Tri-State’s firsthq_bin annual business clothing drive was merely a success would be an understatement. Employees at headquarters and the Northern Colorado Maintenance Center came out in full force over a two-week period to help those less fortunate get on their feet and interview-ready.

The drive resulted in the donation by employees of hundreds of clothing items to Dress For Success Denver and the Denver Rescue Mission. Dress for Success Denver is nonprofit organization that provides interview-appropriate clothing, employment retention programs and one-on-one executive coaching to low-income women seeking employment, while the Denver Rescue Mission is dedicated to helping people in need return to society as productive, self-sufficient citizens.

The clothing drive is part of Tri-State’s ongoing commitment to serve the communities in which we live and work. 

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.

 

SMPA bringing cost-efficient lighting to co-op-served communities

CP-Norwood250-captureTri-State member system San Miguel Power Association (Nucla, Colo.), will brighten the holidays this season in several of its co-op-served towns with a project to convert old technology streetlights to high efficiency LED fixtures that will deliver superior illumination and significant cost savings.

Tri-State supports these projects through its Energy Efficiency Products (EPP) program that is designed to partner with its members to offer rebate incentives to their co-op consumers who install energy efficient technologies such as LED lighting, heating and cooling equipment, and other electric products, that offer value to its members and the consumers they serve.

San Miguel Power’s municipal lighting project is planned for multiple phases beginning with the town of Norwood, where a total of 43 existing streetlights will be upgraded from obsolete mercury vapor and high pressure sodium lamps to LED illumination. To kick off the project, the first lamp (shown in photo) was recently installed at the corner of Market Street and Grand Avenue in Norwood to showcase the new brighter white lights to the public.

The co-op’s key accounts representative, Paul Hora, is encouraging feedback on the new lights and noted that $8,700 investment should yield an annual savings of nearly $2,900 plus reduced maintenance costs, since the lights are projected to have a 15 to 20-year lifespan.

Norwood’s town administrator, Patti Grafmyer, projects that the lighting retrofit will pay for itself in approximately two-and-a-half years.

Similar upgrades are also planned for Nucla and Naturita. In Nucla, the town will replace 58 fixtures for a savings of approximately $3,800 and 100 fixtures will be changed out in Naturita for a lighting tariff reduction of nearly $6,500.

San Miguel’s Hora said that the co-op also plans commercial lighting upgrades in 2016 in the towns of Ridgway, Rico and Silverton for a total of approximately 200 upgraded LED streetlights.

As is often case in many co-op served communities, San Miguel Power’s crews are also out helping everyone get in the holiday spirit by stringing LED holiday lights throughout the communities that they serve.

For High West Energy it’s all about the brands

Highwestpic250There’s a rich ranching heritage within Tri-State member High West Energy’s three-state service territory, and the co-op is saluting it in a most unusual way.

“Over the years, more than 500 brands have been registered in High West’s service territory,” says Brian  Heithoff, CEO and general manager of the Pine Bluffs, Wyo.-based co-op. “It is our goal to have as many of those brands as possible represented in our office.”

For nearly 30 years, seeing some of those brands has been part of the regular workday for dozens of staffers at the coop’s headquarters. The co-op took over an old John Deere dealership building back in 1988 and inherited a tradition likely born in the mind of a tractor salesman decades before to promote customer goodwill. Read more

Colowyo Mine says ‘thanks’ with checks to local communities

Meekerchk250On Nov. 10 and Nov. 23, respectively, Chris McCourt, manager of western Colorado’s Colowyo Coal Mine, presented a check for $15,000 to the Craig City Council and a donation of $5,000 to the Rio Blanco County Commissioners (pictured) in Meeker as a way of showing gratitude for the many years of support of the mine by the residents of these Western Slope communities.

“Many of our 220 employees at the mine are proud to call the towns of Meeker and Craig home and are gratified to know that their friends, neighbors and local businesses support the work that we do at the mine to responsibly help provide affordable electricity to Coloradoans,” said McCourt during his presentation to the Rio Blanco County Commissioners. “This check is our way of saying thanks for your longstanding support,” he added.

Located approximately half way between Craig (in Moffat County) and Meeker (in Rio Blanco County) on State Highway 13, Colowyo Mine currently supplies more than half of the coal needed to operate the 1,311-megawatt Craig Station near Craig. Nearly 200 Colowyo employees live in Moffat County or Rio Blanco County, and the mine has an estimated $206 million economic impact on the region. Colowyo Mine is owned and operated by Western Fuels-Colo., a wholly owned subsidiary of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

 

BLM releases draft EA on Montrose-Nucla-Cahone Transmission Project

– Rebuild of 80-Mile Line Will Support Regional Growth, Boost Grid Reliability

– Tri-State’s Preferred Alternative Would Promote Safety, Minimize Impacts on Grouse Habitat

 telecomchopper250WESTMINSTER, Colo. – Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc., a wholesale power supplier owned by 44 member electric cooperatives and public power districts, said today that it is encouraging the public to review a recently-released federal environmental analysis of the proposed Montrose-Nucla-Cahone (MNC) Transmission Upgrade Project. The company is also urging interested stakeholders to take advantage of a 30-day public comment period by expressing support for the utility’s preferred alternative for rebuilding the transmission line.

 Tri-State is proposing to rebuild and increase the capacity of the 80-mile MNC line that serves communities across southwestern Colorado, not only to replace aging infrastructure and increase grid reliability, but also to help meet new electricity demand. The existing 115 kilovolt (kV) line, in place for almost 60 years, will be replaced by a new 230 kV line and supported by a new substation and upgrades at two existing substations. The project will also replace fiber optic cable that is located on the existing line to ensure continued reliable emergency communications and broadband service for the region.

According to Tri-State Senior Vice President of Transmission Joel Bladow, the new line will benefit Tri-State’s members and the communities they serve. “Tri-State studied multiple ways to address the aging infrastructure, improve reliability and meet significant new demand in the region, and we determined that the MNC project was the best option,” said Bladow. “The upgraded line will help us meet the needs of our members for years to come.”

Because the existing line crosses lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the MNC project requires the completion of an Environmental Assessment (EA).

On Nov. 3, the BLM released a draft EA, triggering a 30-day public comment period (running through Dec. 3) that provides opportunities for stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposed alternatives and project benefits.

The draft EA identifies three construction alternatives. Under “Alternative A,” Tri-State’s preferred option, the utility would rebuild the line largely within the existing transmission line corridor – with the exception of diverting the current crossing of the Dolores River in western Dolores County to a new location approximately one mile downstream. The re-route is proposed to address safety, access and erosion concerns.

Bladow explained that the new crossing point would be more accessible, making it safer for construction and maintenance workers. “Safety is a top priority at Tri-State, but the existing span across the Dolores River creates real challenges for our maintenance staff. The northern takeoff point is located on steep, narrow, rocky terrain that is extremely difficult to access with vehicles and equipment for needed maintenance,” he said. “We are hopeful the BLM, Forest Service and other stakeholders will recognize that our proposed alternative offers a safer and more desirable location and will reduce erosion concerns by removing the current alignment from highly erosive soils.”

The other alternatives in the draft EA involve taking no action at all to improve the existing line – which would lead to further deterioration of the critical infrastructure, increase risk for electrical outages and threaten future service capacity – and diverting the existing corridor to accommodate a remnant population of Gunnison sage-grouse in the Dry Creek Basin in central San Miguel County. The BLM has proposed relocating 7.6 miles of line from its current route through the basin to a new alignment located along State Highway 141; the relocation would create an additional 1.3 miles of disturbance through Gunnison sage-grouse critical habitat.

As part of the 30-day public comment period on the draft EA, the BLM will host a public open house on Nov. 16 at Dove Creek High School in Dove Creek, Colo., from 5 to 7 p.m. Information is also available at the BLM’s project Web page: http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/district_offices/southwest/TriState230kVRebuild.html.

In addition, Tri-State has established a website at www.MNCRebuild.com to provide updated information on the project and to facilitate the submission of comments to the BLM.

 About Tri-State

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is a wholesale power supplier, operating on a not-for-profit basis, to 44 electric cooperatives and public power districts serving approximately 1.5 million consumers throughout a 200,000 square-mile service territory across Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. In 2015, Tri-State was recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as Wind Cooperative of the Year.

 Media Contact:

Drew Kramer

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association

O: (303) 254-3086

C: (303) 681-1341

E: Akramer@TriStateGT.org

 

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.

NM jury affirms cooperative business model in Las Conchas fire trial

A jury in the Sandoval County District Court affirmed that Tri-State is not responsible for the actions of Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative, Inc. (JMEC), one of its 44 member distribution cooperatives, in a trial stemming from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire in New Mexico.

During the trial, Tri-State maintained it had a strong legal position in the case regarding its operations being separate from JMEC and the members of the jury agreed. The jury supported the cooperative’s arguments that JMEC and Tri-State did not operate as a joint venture or joint enterprise.

“We appreciate the jury’s recognition of the cooperative business model and that JMEC and Tri-State operate independently,” said Lee Boughey, senior manager of communications and public affairs for Tri-State.

The jury found JMEC, Tri-State and the United States Forest Service were comparatively negligent in the Las Conchas fire.

“Tri-State is disappointed with the negligence verdict, but we are nonetheless thankful to the jury for the time they have devoted to the trial,” said Boughey.

Tri-State maintains it had a strong defense and the correct legal position in the case and will consider all of its legal options.

The trial in the Sandoval County District Court began Oct. 1. The civil lawsuit was filed by a number of plaintiffs, including the Cochiti and Jemez pueblos, against JMEC and Tri-State for damages stemming from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. The issue of the amount of damages, if any, will be determined in a later trial.

The fire started when an aspen tree, located on private land approximately 50 feet beyond the edge of JMEC’s 20-foot right-of-way for an electric distribution line, fell into JMEC’s line during a period of strong winds. The U.S. Forest Service granted the right-of-way easement to the cooperative to operate the line.

“In this case, a tree located far from the line’s right-of-way and in apparently healthy condition was blown over by a wind gust,” said Boughey. “Given the tree’s location and condition, it could not have been identified by JMEC as posing a threat to the line.”

During the trial, both JMEC and Tri-State argued that JMEC was not negligent and followed distribution cooperative industry standards and practices for line clearance and tree trimming.

The jury found JMEC 75 percent negligent, Tri-State 20 percent negligent and the US Forest Service 5 percent negligent.

“Utilities operate power lines and maintain rights-of-way to ensure safety and to protect their communities,” said Boughey. “We feel deeply for those in the Cochiti and Jemez pueblos and the other plaintiffs who were affected by the fire.”

Tri-State files legal challenge on Clean Power Plan

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. filed a legal challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan by filing a Petition for Review with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Tri-State, the wholesale power supplier to 44 member electric cooperatives and public power districts across the West, is also participating in motions for stay of the rule filed by a large group of states, trade organizations, utilities, energy producers and business interests.

Even as Tri-State works constructively with the states to develop state plans under the new rule, strong arguments exist to show EPA exceeded its legal authority and many of the requirements of the rule are legally flawed.

During the federal rulemaking process, Tri-State and many of its member systems raised legal and technical issues about the proposal and expressed concerns the rule would be unworkable and unenforceable. The EPA did little to address these concerns and issued a final rule, which prompted the legal challenge.

Tri-State appreciates the efforts of attorneys general across the country who have asked to stay implementation of the rule until all of the legal issues are resolved. A stay of the rule is warranted because of the irreparable harm that will occur long before the compliance obligations go into effect. Utilities are often required to comply with a rule and forced to make long-term decisions well before the legal process concludes.

While pursuing legal challenges to the federal rule, Tri-State is also committed to working with officials in the five states in which it operates to develop required state plans and minimize the impact these state plans have on its members and rural electricity consumers.

Tri-State addresses carbon emissions by maintaining highly efficient power plants, investing in renewable energy and supporting research and development. In 2014, 24 percent of the energy delivered by Tri-State and its member systems was from renewable resources, and the association’s renewable power supply will grow by another 281 megawatts with the completion of four wind and solar projects by 2017. Tri-State also supports progressive energy efficiency programs offered by its member systems.

In addition to Tri-State’s renewable energy resources and energy efficiency programs, fossil fuel resources remain essential to serve load, maintain reliability and manage power costs for its members.

Tri-State is the wholesale power supplier, operating on a not-for-profit basis, to 44 member electric distribution systems that serve 1.5 million members throughout 200,000 square miles of Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. Tri-State has operations in five states, including Arizona.

 

Tri-State to help support carbon capture R&D at Basin plant

Dryforksta250Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Station (Gillette, Wyo.) will host a new research facility underwritten by the state of Wyoming with help from Tri-State and other electric cooperatives to develop commercially viable uses for carbon dioxide produced by power plants.

Tri-State is a Class A member of Basin Electric and also shares ownership in the Bismarck, N.D.-based G&T’s Laramie River Station near Wheatland, Wyo.

“We are making an investment in the future of coal,” Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said in announcing the plans for the new Integrated Test Center on Oct. 8. “The research at the ITC will lead to new opportunities in petrochemicals and other commercial uses.

Wyoming, the nation’s leading coal-producing state, is financing 75 percent of the $20 million project. Tri-State and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association have also pledged significant contributions to the project.

“This facility allows us to provide the same leadership in research and to do all we can to make sure the coal industry can continue to serve Wyoming and the country for many years to come,” said Mead.

Dry Fork Station is one of a number of coal-based generation facilities in Basin’s generation fleet that supplies power to its member cooperatives, including Tri-State.

The XPRIZE Foundation has agreed to be one of the first tenants in the Integrated Test Center. The international Philanthropic group recently announced a $20 million global competition to encourage development of new uses for CO2.

The ITC will be completed in time to host the final phase of the Carbon XPRIZE, which is scheduled to begin in late 2017.

Watch “The people behind the power” mining video

Miner&son250Tri-State takes a great deal of pride in the men and women who safely and efficiently operate its mines in Colorado. Take a look at this short video (less than 7 minutes) and learn more about how these miners, their families and the local community business owners view the operations at Tri-State’s coal mines and the important role that they play in helping us keep the lights on for thousands of consumers across the West.

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.

 

DMEA donates fresh 4-H meat to local food banks

DMEAmeatshare250Fresh food is a rare commodity at food banks, but two pantries in Colorado received a special treat recently when Tri-State member, Delta-Montrose Electric Association (Montrose, Colo.), donated hundreds pounds of fresh meat to help feed families in the region.

As shown in the photo to the left, DMEA board members Bill Patterson (left) and Kyle Martinez (right) helped delivered 320 pounds of lamb and pork to Michelle Overmyer of Sharing Ministries in Montrose. In addition, the co-op also donated about 350 pounds of bacon and sausage to the Hotchkiss Community Methodist Church Food Bank worth about $700.

The donated meat is farm fresh, straight from junior 4H Livestock shows at local county fairs. The co-op also paid a local plant to process the meat.

“This year, by donating the meat we were able to make our support go further in our community and impact members we may have not have reached before,” said Becky Mashburn, the co-op’s marketing and public relations administrator.

Sharon Teter, of the Hotchkiss Food Bank, said it will take about two months to distribute the meat; the bank serves about 340 families every two months in the four communities that it serves.

The remainder of the pork and sausage, which went to Montrose Sharing Ministries, is being distributed to local families in need. “We distribute one pound of meat per person, or two, if we have an abundance of meat, which isn’t very often,” said Kathi Crandall of the Montrose Sharing Ministries. “It’s very exciting when we get meat donated like we got from DMEA,” she added.

 

Tri-State among utilities seeking rail reform with new alliance

LRS2013250The highly profitable U.S. freight railroad industry, operating in what some call a renaissance, will be facing more organized customers who are not happy with the cost they’re paying and the service they’re getting.

A national organization for freight rail shippers announced a new name, ambitions for a broader range of members, which now includes Tri-State, and new hopes for reforming federal regulatory policies that apply to railroads they think are taking advantage.

The new Freight Rail Customer Alliance (FRCA) is for those in all industries working to improve access to reliable rail service at competitive prices, said David Sauer, who is president of the alliance and also CEO and senior vice president of Dakota Gasification Co., a North Dakota subsidiary of Basin Electric Power Cooperative in Bismarck.

The customer alliance website throws down the challenge: “The lack of competitive transportation options for rail-dependent shippers has forced them to pay monopoly rates and often receive unreliable service. The costs of rail shipping have skyrocketed, particularly for those shippers served by a single railroad. In fact, since 2003 – through one of the nation’s worst economic periods – freight rail rates in general have increased two and a half times the rate of inflation and two and a half times the level of truck rates. Rates for individual shippers served by a single railroad have increased even more. These unreasonably high rates are hurting our national economy by rendering certain producers and manufacturers uncompetitive, reducing the profits of American companies and driving up the cost of everything consumed by Americans from electricity to cereal.”

Among the members of FRCA, are Basin Electric, Tri-State and Lincoln Electric System, which share in the ownership of the 1,710-megawatt Laramie River Station (pictured). The Wheatland, Wyo., generating plant has only one option for the delivery of coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, the BNSF Railway.

Tri-State has a 24-percent capacity ownership in Laramie River Station. More information can be found on FRCA’s website at www.railvoices.org.

 

United Power, Tri-State assist with efficient lighting for nonprofit riding center

CTRC250The Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center (CTRC), a nonprofit organization based in Longmont that is devoted to changing the lives of people with disabilities by promoting equine assisted activities, was recently retrofitted with high efficiency LED light bulbs throughout their facility.

This project was made possible with funding from Tri-State member United Power, Tri-State’s Energy Efficiency Products (EEP) incentive program, rebates from Boulder County’s Clean Environment Program and Elevation Lighting Services Co., which donated the installation of the LED lights.

The project was spearheaded by United’s Bill Meier, who assists with energy efficiency upgrades and rebates for its membership.

“Initially, we noticed that the center could save a significant amount of money if they could afford a lighting upgrade, but with a limited budget, the project wasn’t their top priority,” said Meier. “But it’s not just about dollar savings when we work with our members. By working cooperatively with other community organizations to make a project like this happen, we can truly make life better for our members,” he added.

“Since the installation, staff members, volunteers and even the horses are seeing a difference,” said Heather McLaughlin,  CTRC program director. “The new lighting system has made the office environment more comfortable for families and the tack room is better illuminated, providing volunteers easier access to equipment. As for the horses at CTRC, they are striding into the arena a bit more confidently,” she said.

Funding for the project was derived from a $5,000 grant from United Power’s Operation Round-Up Foundation, a charitable organization funded by co-op members who “round-up” their electric bill to the next full dollar amount.

CTRC also received nearly $3,700 in rebates from Tri-State’s EEP program that provides incentives to member consumers of its 44 electric co-ops and public power districts who install energy efficient appliances and other equipment that helps them save money on their electric bills.

Boulder County’s Partners for a Clean Environment also provided nearly $4,900 in rebates to this community project.

Colowyo Mine Plan approved by U.S. Department of the Interior

  • Federal government completes court ordered review within 120-day deadline
  • New mine plan replaces challenged plan
  • Environmental assessment finds no significant environmental impact from mining operations

Colowyo251The U.S. Department of the Interior has approved and signed a modified mine plan for Colowyo Mine, which was subject to a federal district court order requiring the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) to update its environmental review of the mine.

In addition to the new mining plan, on August 31, 2015, the OSM completed a new environmental assessment for the mine, resulting in a finding of no significant impact on the environment from mining operations.

The approval of the new mine plan completes the effort by OSM to comply with the court’s May 8, 2015, order to complete the environmental review within 120 days. OSM’s counsel has notified the court that it has completed the environmental review and approved a modified mining plan.

“We are grateful to the staff at the Office of Surface Mining and the other cooperating agencies for their diligence and hard work to complete the environmental review within the short timeframe ordered by the judge,” said Mike McInnes, chief executive officer of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which owns Colowyo Mine through its subsidiary, Colowyo Coal Company.

“The unwavering support we have received from our 220 mine employees, the community and elected officials across Colorado helped ensure the Department of the Interior, from Secretary Jewell down, committed the resources and time necessary to complete this important work,” added McInnes.

Colowyo Coal Company believes the new mine plan allows the mine to continue to operate and the completion of the environmental assessment, finding of no significant impact and mine plan will satisfy the court, but it is uncertain how the court will proceed.

“The approval of the new plan should provide our employees and the residents of Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties with the confidence to move forward and focus on the future,” said Chris McCourt, Colowyo Mine’s manager.

Colowyo Coal Company is owned by Tri-State, which purchased the Colowyo Mine in 2011. Tri-State is a not-for-profit wholesale power supplier to 44 electric cooperatives and public power districts that serves 1.5 million members throughout 200,000 square-miles of Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.

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.

DMEA using prepay to help past-due members

DMEA250Past-due accounts are a sore spot for utilities. But one Tri-State member co-op found an innovative way to help members pay off what they owe and get on a sound financial footing.

The offer is this: Sign up for My Choice prepaid metering and you’ll be eligible for help with past-due balances.

“If a member comes in with a disconnect notice they have the option to pay in full for their power to be turned back on, or enroll in the My Choice program,” said Becky Mashburn, marketing and public relations administrator at Delta-Montrose Electric Association (Montrose, Colo.).

“A member can roll over up to $500 of their past-due balance onto My Choice. As they put money on their account 30 percent goes to pay off the old balance and 70 percent goes to the purchase of new electricity,” Mashburn said.

Prepay, she added, “offers a permanent solution for eliminating the fees that can add up when members get behind—late fees, disconnect fees, and reconnect fees. With My Choice, there are no fees, and members are able to be take control of their energy costs, rather than falling further behind.”

Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC), a non-profit providing energy assistance to low-income residents, has committed $100,000 to help DMEA members transition to prepay.

Members signing up for My Choice are eligible to receive EOC funds to reduce past-due balances. EOC money can also cover the $140 cost of the My Choice in-home display, a device that has dual benefits.

“It is the best and easiest way for members to see what they are using and receive notifications about their account balance. This leads to energy efficiency because members become more aware of how much energy they are using daily, and make behavioral changes to lower their usage,” said Mashburn.

The co-op is also partnering with its local Health and Human Service Departments to promote My Choice as a solution for people who chronically struggle with past-due balances.

Telcom team stays sharp with continuous training

telecom250Safety is always a key area of focus for Tri-State, as evidenced through the continuous safety training Tri-State teams complete. And in support of that goal, the telecommunications crews recently completed their annual telecom tower rescue certification.

“The tower rescue training is required before the teams can work on the towers,” said Jaime Leal, transmission maintenance manager, east.

Over the course of two weeks, teams from each of the regions came together for small-group training on the rescue techniques they would use in the event there was an emergency while a team member was on the tower.

The training was a success, thanks to the teamwork of Marty Burrier, field training specialist; the telecom maintenance superintendents from all regions: Joey Livingston from the east, Tommy Chavez from the south and Jerry Quinn from the west; and all of the participants.

Tom Penner, journey level lineman, and Clint White, field training specialist, also contributed to the training, having recently conducted Tri-State’s fall protection training for the transmission maintenance teams.

“Tom and Clint came out to help everyone get comfortable with the new rescue devices—helping everyone to be more efficient and safe,” said Leal.

Tri-Stater among DBJ’s ‘Top Women in Energy’

SHunterpicrevEarlier this month, the Denver Business Journal published an article announcing the “Top Women in Energy” for 2015. Tri-State’s Susan Hunter, business development manager, was among the honorees this year. Hunter is recognized for her work with conventional and renewable electric generation projects.

Hunter was chosen based on her expertise, leadership and personal commitment to her community. She has been recognized because of her success in leading and implementing renewable energy projects. Her contract negotiations have led to almost 400 megawatts of new renewable generation in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, and she continues to build relationships and expand Tri-State’s renewable portfolio.

“I get to see projects being built, and see them in motion. It’s tangible. I like that aspect of my job,” Hunter told the Denver Business Journal.

This is the second year that the Denver Business Journal has recognized 40 women who are influencing Denver’s energy sector. Hunter was nominated by last year’s Tri-State honoree, Gigi Dennis.

LAT panel offers insight into member system operations

July-LATrevisedWhile each of Tri-State’s 44 member systems works toward the goal of providing reliable, affordable electricity for its members, all face unique challenges on the way to that goal. And at the July 13 Leaders as Teachers session, held at headquarters in Westminster, Colo., Tri-State employees gained a little more insight into the challenges and rewards the leaders of our member systems face.

Matthew Collins (pictured left) of Central New Mexico Electric Cooperative (CNMEC), Mark Farnsworth (pictured right) of Highline Electric Association in Colorado and Tim Lindahl (center of photo) of Wheat Belt Public Power District in Nebraska spent an hour providing an overview of their individual cooperatives, as well as their take on changes in the industry.

Looking at demographics, CNMEC employs 70 people and serves primarily a residential load. With 52 employees, Highline has irrigation as the majority of its load. And with a lean staff of just 27 employees, Wheat Belt serves one-third irrigation, one-third industrial, and one-third everything else, with an average of two miles of line per customer. But despite their unique features, each member system came back to a key theme – the importance of serving both members and employees while responding to the ever-changing industry.

Leaders as Teachers is a monthly noontime program featuring speakers and sometimes panels of people who provide unique insights into the various issues and topics of interest in the electric industry. All Tri-State employees have an opportunity to see and hear the presentations either on site or remotely.

Co-op youth camp kicks off with Broncos player appearance

BlogyouthTri-State and its Touchstone Energy Cooperatives decided to bring a little added team spirit to the opening day of the week-long (July 12-17) 2015 Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp near Steamboat Springs, Colo., by helping to arrange a brief appearance by Ben Garland, Denver Broncos’ starting left guard, who was more than happy to talk the nearly 100 teen campers about his impressive career journey.

Garland talked about growing up in a small rural Colorado community, his military career in the Air Force and his plans to help the Broncos win the Super Bowl.  His overall message to the campers: “Never count yourself out no matter what the odds. Set your sights on a goal and with dedication and commitment you will achieve that goal.”

The kids attending this year’s youth camp are 16-years old and over and are selected by their local electric co-ops in the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming. The electric co-ops shoulder 100 percent of the cost of the kids attending the camp. In addition, employees of the sponsoring co-ops, including Tri-State staff, assist in organizing activities, putting on presentations and other support-related duties during the week.

Transmission West hosts demonstration of rope access live-line maintenance

Kyleonharness (2)On June 30, with temperatures in the high 90s, Tri-State’s Montrose-based line maintenance crews (as well as Cheyenne-based personnel) climbed into their bare hand suits and scaled a 150-foot steel transmission tower on the association’s Montrose to Grand Junction, 345-kV line to replace a broken insulator string and demonstrate rope access live-line procedures to visiting utility personnel, including two guests from as far away as England.

Tri-State’s line crews are among the industry leaders in this unique procedure, which is used primarily in situations where the rugged terrain at a site doesn’t allow for the use of aerial bucket trucks and other ground support equipment typically used in tansmission line maintenance.

“The main difference in this rope access procedure of live-line work is that instead of our crews working out of a bucket truck or off of a hot stick ladder they are dangling from a rope harness in the air to conduct their work,” explained Mac Fellin, West-side transmission maintenance manager.  “Ultimately this procedure is safer than the conventional method, reduces time in setup and preparation and results in lower maintenance costs overall,” he added.

Attendees at the demonstration included transmission personnel from Western Area Power Administration, Salt River Project, Bonneville Power Administration, Nebraska Public Power District and two linemen from National Grid Company, based in England.

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.”

Co-ops lead in satisfied consumers

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