The United States Department of Energy (DOE) today recognized Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc., as the 2014 Wind Cooperative of the Year in the generation and transmission (G&T) cooperative category. Tri-State member San Isabel Electric Association, Inc. (SIEA), based in Pueblo West, Colo., was honored for wind energy development by a distribution cooperative.
The two power providers were selected by a panel of experts from the wind industry, utilities, government, national laboratories and cooperatives. The 14th annual awards were presented at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association TechAdvantage 2015 Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida. Accepting the award on behalf of Tri-State was Don Keairns, SIEA board member and representative on the Tri-State board of directors.
According to Tri-State Senior Vice President of Energy Management Brad Nebergall, the wholesale power supplier has been purchasing wind power since 1998 and pursued its first utility-scale wind project in 2009 with the power purchase of the full output of the 51-megawatt Kit Carson Wind Power Project, located in the service territory of Tri-State member KC Electric Association.
In 2012, Tri-State contracted for the full output of the 67-megawatt Colorado Highlands Wind Farm, a project that was expanded by 24 megawatts the following year. The association is currently working with a private developer on the 150-megawatt Carousel Wind Project near Burlington, Colo., scheduled to be online in 2016 after the completion of a major transmission line. Tri-State is currently considering both wind and solar projects submitted in response to a request for proposals issued in 2014.
“Including hydropower, renewable energy has been integral to our operations since Tri-State’s founding,” said Nebergall. “We continue to invest in technologies that diversify our generation portfolio while meeting our obligation to deliver reliable, affordable power to our members. Today over 20 percent of the energy we provide our members comes from wind and other renewable resources.”
In addition to its wind resources, Tri-State purchases all of the power from the 30-megawatt Cimarron Solar Facility in northeastern New Mexico. Tri-State also provides support for its members that participate in more than 50 megawatts of community-based distributed and renewable energy projects, including wind, solar, hydropower, landfill gas and recycled heat, in their service territories.
One of those members, SIEA, has been a leader in wind power development in Colorado dating back to the 2004 installation of three anemometer towers to assess the wind potential in Huerfano County. The data from those towers has assisted with educational research and renewables development in the area, leading to the 2013 commissioning of SIEA’s Huerfano River Wind Project. The largest community-owned, distributed-generation wind facility in the region, the 8-megawatt project today supplies five percent of SIEA’s annual kilowatt-hour requirements.
SIEA is now partnering with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for a demonstration project using remotely controlled water heaters and electric thermal storage units to absorb the intermittent wind power. “These solutions can help to break down the integration barriers for smaller scale distributed energy projects,” said San Isabel General Manager Reg Rudolph. “I am proud of the leadership San Isabel has shown in developing this project, creating a working model for others to follow.”