Tag Archives: Rural Electric Cooperatives

Tri-State, under pressure from its member co-ops to change or fall behind, is shifting to renewable energy

Giant power provider on the verge of deal with departing utility says it will shutter coal-fired plant in Nucla two years early as it retools carbon-emissions goals.

By Mark Jaffe, The Colorado Sun

Faced with renewable energy generation that undercuts the cost of power from coal-fired plants and new laws in Colorado and New Mexico setting high clean energy goals, Tri-State is being pushed by political and market forces to change or fall behind. “Our industry is facing significant challenges and we are positioning ourselves not only meet those challenges, but to leverage those opportunities for our membership,” Tri-State spokesman Lee Boughey said.

Mark Dyson, a principal at Rocky Mountain Institute and author of the study on Tri-State’s coal-fired plants, said in an email that the association’s announcement “suggests Tri-State is beginning to acknowledge the broad utility industry consensus that taking major steps toward a low-carbon energy future can be, in fact, more affordable than continuing with business-as-usual. The implementation details, when they are available, will tell how much of this opportunity they intend to pursue,” Dyson said. Read more here.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Renewable Energy Data

Solar Energy 

Wind Energy

563 cooperatives in 36 states utilize wind as a source of power.
Nebraska ranks 5th among these states, with 30 cooperatives utilizing wind energy, behind Minnesota (44), Missouri (41, Indiana (38), and Iowa (31).

Hydro Power

727 cooperatives in 43 states utilize hydro power.
Nebraska is 6th among these states, with 30 cooperatives utilizing hydro power, behind
Minnesota (44), Texas (43), Georgia (42), Missouri (41), and Iowa (35).

Heat Recovery

Thermal capture technologies, including geothermal technologies, use heat to generate power. Geothermal power capturing the earth’s heat is cost-effective, reliable and available 24/7. Similar technology can also be used to recover heat that otherwise would have gone to waste from industrial processes, such as exhaust from natural gas pipeline compressors.

139 cooperatives in 10 states utilize heat recovery. Nebraska is 9th, with 6 cooperatives utilizing heat recovery.

Additional Resources

Mondelez International Signs VPPA for 65 MW from Texas Solar Farm

By Alyssa Danigelis, Energy Manager Today

Mondelez International signed a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) with Enel Green Power North America for a 65-MW portion of the renewable company’s Roadrunner solar farm in Texas. EGPNA has been on a roll. Last year saw Starbucks and Kohler signing agreements as well as Facebook and Adobe snapping up energy from the 320-MW Rattlesnake Creek wind farm. Late last year, Enel’s Hill Topper wind farm in Illinois began operations. Then the Rattlesnake Creek wind farm in Nebraska started operations in January. Read more here.

Photo Credit: Enel Green Power

Previously Posted Virtual Power Purchase Agreements

Resources

Renewable Energy Aggregation & Purchase Agreements

Educational Opportunities

Commentary: Rural Power Co-Ops ‘Stranded In Coal’

By Erik Hatlestad and Liz Veazey, Daily Yonder

Rural electric cooperatives’ loyalty to coal is holding rural America back. That’s according to a new report authored by CURE (Clean Up the River Environment), We Own It, and the Center for Rural Affairs.

During the 1970s, most rural electric cooperatives made significant investments to build coal-burning power plants. At the time, the coal investment strategy made in the interest of providing low-cost electricity to their member-owners. Co-ops took on massive amounts of debt, mostly from the federal government. One year a loan to Basin Electric (a consortium of cooperatives that serves much of the Northern Great Plains) for a coal plant took up almost the entire annual budget for loans from the USDA’s Rural Utility Service. Continue reading here.

Report’s Authors
Erik Hatlestad is director of the Energy Democracy Program at CURE (Clean Up the River Environment), Liz Veazey is network director of We Own It, and Katie Rock is a policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs.

Upcoming Webinar
Erik Hatlestad and Liz Veazey will host a webinar about their report on Monday, June 24, at noon Central. Register here.

Additional Recommended Reading

  • NM co-op started something big in electricity markets, Albuquerque Journal, guest column by Greg Brophy, Colorado Director, The Western Way
    According to Standard & Poor’s, Tri-State’s debt load has risen sharply over the past decade from $1.7 billion to more than $3 billion. SEC filings show the largest of those loans is a $2.8 billion “master indenture,” which imposes conditions on how much Tri-State charges for wholesale electricity. In short, Tri-State must keep rates high enough to cover payments on billions of dollars of debt. This is critically important. Tri-State was created in the 1950s by rural cooperatives to provide cheaper sources of wholesale electricity, not more expensive sources. But even Tri-State concedes that “cheaper prices are now available elsewhere.”
  • Co-op elections show strengthening interest in electrical transition, by Allen Best, Mountain Town News
  • Previously Posted: ‘Stranded costs’ mount as coal vanishes from the grid

SUNDA RESOURCES FOR RURAL ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s innovative SUNDA Project helps rural electric cooperatives nationwide to accelerate utility solar. SUNDA stands for “Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration.”

Push for renewables vexes Western power supplier

By Keriann Conroy, Perspective, High Country News

Colorado’s largest member-owned generation and transmission provider may be in trouble.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which provides wholesale electricity to rural
cooperatives in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nebraska, is facing increasing pressure to let go of some of its contracts and to improve its renewable portfolio. But it appears unable to change fast enough to keep up with the times.

Most of Tri-State’s power is generated from coal- and gas-fired plants or large hydroelectric dams, but it is now facing regulatory hassles and the potential exodus of customers. Rural
“distribution” cooperatives are currently waiting to see how much it would cost them to exit their contracts, while Colorado moves toward regulations requiring more renewables.
Read more here.

Photo Credit: Missy Kennedy/Flickr

Keriann Conroy is a graduate student at Western Colorado University in Gunnison, Colorado, studying democratic practices and sustainability.

Previously Posted News Stories & RMI Report

Also of Potential Interest

Center for Rural Affairs explores renewable energy issues

By Joseph Hopper, Spencer Daily Reporter

The Nebraska and Iowa-based nonprofit, the Center for Rural Affairs, recently published a number of publications focusing on renewable energy in Iowa. Its most recent research publication, entitled “Powering Iowa: Rural Perspectives on Iowa’s Renewable Energy Transformation,” highlighted current opinions on various renewable energy issues, such as wind turbines and transmission line development. In addition to the center’s study on opinions of renewable energy, the center authored a white paper on wind energy ordinances in the state and a second publication examining incentives for tax revenue from transmission lines. Read the entire article here.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Highline is 80 Years Strong: Electric cooperative celebrates with members at annual meeting, by Darci Tomky, The Holyoke Enterprise
Of the energy sold to members from Tri-State, about 30 percent was generated from renewable sources last year. That’s a considerable increase from the 17 percent reported in 2007. “That is the largest percentage of renewables in generation and transmission companies across the country and one of the highest of any utility in the U.S.” said Farnsworth. Included in Highline’s renewable projects is the Trailblazer Waste Heat Generation Site. Emphasizing its value to Highline, Farnsworth said it has brought $2.3 million to Highline’s bottom line since 2009. Highline is currently looking at options for a utility scale solar project that could provide savings to members over the next 20 to 25 years.

Nebraska Cooperatives Currently Using Solar & Wind

  • NRECA’s Interactive Map: Cooperative Solar Across the Country, shows that 443 cooperatives in 43 states utilize solar as a source of power. Eight Nebraska co-ops currently use solar, following: Georgia (42), Minnesota (37), North Carolina (26), Tennessee (24), Colorado (23), Indiana (23), Iowa (22), Oklahoma (21), South Carolina (21), Wisconsin (19), Arkansas (18), New Mexico (16), Mississippi (14), Illinois (13) Texas (11), Virginia (11), Alabama (10), Florida (9), and Wyoming (9). Click here and scroll down to individual states’ information.
  • NRECA’s Interactive Map: Cooperative Wind Across the Country, shows that.564 cooperatives in 37 states use wind as a source of power. Thirty Nebraska co-ops utilize wind energy, following Minnesota (44), Missouri (41), Indiana (38), and Iowa (31). Click here and scroll down to individual states’ information, including a list of all 30 Nebraska cooperatives using wind.

Are US automakers falling behind vehicle technology trends?

Ask a Scientist – December 2017, Union of Concerned Scientists 

This month we asked Dave Cooke, a UCS senior vehicles analyst, to set the record straight on the status of US automakers. Cooke, who has a PhD in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of the new report, “In Need of a U-Turn: Automakers’ History of Intransigence and Opportunity for Change.”

Read more here.

Dave Cooke is a senior vehicles analyst in the Clean Vehicles Program, specializing in both light- and heavy-duty fuel economy.  He conducts research on fuel efficiency technologies and the implications for oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions across the transportation sector. Dr. Cooke received his Ph.D. in condensed matter physics in 2010 from the University of California, Berkeley.  Prior to this, he received his BS in physics from Harvey Mudd College in 2002 and his MS in physics from the University of California, San Diego in 2004.

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

University of Minnesota makes long-term commitment to clean energy

By Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

By next year more than 20 percent of the electricity needs of the University of Minnesota will be powered by renewable energy. Over the course of the last several months, the university has inked a 10-year subscription to a new green tariff program developed by Xcel Energy. It joins a list of clean energy investments that includes a much bigger deal to purchase power from four community solar gardens for a combined total of 24.5 megawatts (MW) and construction on its own 2.25-MW solar program. Continue reading.

Image: Solar array on the University of Minnesota campus.

ALSO IN THE NEWS

AMERICAN WIND ENERGY ASSOCIATION MESSAGE TO THE NATION

It’s a wrap: Best moments from the first #AmericanWindWeek

Déjà Vu as Co-ops Lead in Satisfaction

By Michael W. Kahn
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

Strong showings from electric cooperatives, as well as greater satisfaction among all electric consumers, are among the highlights of a new J.D. Power report. The firm’s 2017 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study shows several co-ops with top-of-the-chart scores besting many investor-owned and municipal utilities. Read more here.

Facts from NRECA’s Website on Cooperatives and Renewable Energy

  • Electric cooperatives across the country are actively expanding their future portfolios to include an array of renewable energy
  • Currently, 95% of NRECA’s distribution members offer renewable options to 40 million Americans
  • Co-ops own nearly 1.3 GW of renewable capacity and have long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) for more than 7.3 GW – in addition to roughly 10 GW of preference power contracts with federal hydroelectric facilities.

Solar Deployment and Co-Op Solar

  • By the end of 2017, the total solar energy capacity of America’s electric cooperatives will be five times what it was two years ago.
  • This year, co-ops are on pace to add 480 MW of solar, which would bring their total capacity to 872 MW. This more than quadruples the 180 MW reached in 2015 and represents a 20-fold increase over the 37 MW capacity in 2010.
  • In addition, over the last two years, cooperatives have expanded their solar footprint from 34 states to 44 states.
  • 133 cooperatives in 30 states offer community solar programs

Q&A: How rural co-ops can help lead the smart grid transition

 Written by David J. Unger, Midwest Energy News

Rural electric cooperatives spread across the U.S. in the 1930s to electrify parts of the country where as many as nine out of ten rural homes lacked electricity. Today, many of those co-ops are building on that legacy by deploying an advanced, 21st-century version of the electricity distribution systems they brought to farms decades ago. In some cases, rural America is seeing the smart grid arrive at their doorstep well before their urban and suburban counterparts. As the newly elected, two-year-term president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), Phil Carson has a bird’s-eye view of grid modernization efforts underway in rural America. Continue reading.

Phil Carson, director of the Tri-County Electric Co-op in Illinois, is the new president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Rural Solar Stories: New! Dairyland Power Cooperative

Dairyland Power became a national leader in 2016 when they began implementing a plan to develop up to 25 megawatts (MW) of solar power. This project makes Dairyland a national solar leader with one of the largest solar projects of any rural electric cooperative, nationwide. Click here to read more, watch a 1-minute video and view a series of 13 photos and a Map of Dairyland Power Cooperative Solar Project Sites.

MORE RURAL SOLAR STORIES

ON RURAL SOLAR STORIES.ORG YOU WILL ALSO FIND

ABOUT RURAL SOLAR STORIES.ORG
Rural Solar Success Stories is hosted by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). ELPC is a Midwestern legal and policy advocacy group that works for renewable energy in many ways, including as a leading supporter for the energy programs of the Farm Bill.

NATIONAL RURAL ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE ASSOCIATION’S INTERACTIVE MAP
According to NRECA’s data, 352 cooperatives in 43 states utilize solar as a source of power, including 7 in Nebraska, 10 in Iowa, 37 in Minnesota, 19 in Wisconsin, 1 in South Dakota, 22 in Colorado, and 3 in Kansas. Click here to link to NRECA’s Solar Map. Scroll down and click on any state to learn more about rural cooperatives’ utility-scale and community solar development nationwide.

RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO NATIONAL COOPERATIVES