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.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s innovative SUNDA Project helps rural electric cooperatives to develop utility-scale solar projects. SUNDA stands for “Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration.” Resources are available here:SUNDA Project NRECA Report:A Solar Revolution in Rural America
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.
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.
National Grid’s ($114 million) future is rising in West Seneca, The Buffalo News National Grid launched the upgrade just over a year ago, with O’Connell Electric as the prime contractor. The work has stayed on schedule despite a wet spring, said John Burke, National Grid’s operations director. “I’ve been at National Grid for 30 years, and this is the biggest project I’ve seen,” Burke said. Materials for the facility came from a variety of sources, including steel from Nebraska and locally supplied stone and concrete.
Fort Collins mayor speaks at University Cities Conference, North Forty News He described the Fort ZED project as an example of collaboration between the university, the municipally-owned electric utility and 13 private sector partners to reduce peak-load energy demand by up to 30 percent in two parts of the city. The partners were able to showcase their technology for customers all over the world.
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.
Arizona utility taps storage over traditional grid upgrade, Public Power Daily, American Public Power Association Blog. Arizona Public Service is installing a 2 MW, 8 MWh battery storage system instead of rebuilding about 20 miles of transmission and distribution poles and wires. It is the first time that APS, an investor-owned utility, has used energy storage as an alternative to traditional infrastructure, but it will not be the last, Scott Bordenkircher, director of transmission and distribution technology innovation and integration at APS, says.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Currently, the solar power industry employs 260,077 workers – up 24.5% from 2015 — and 51,000 of the jobs added were for newly created positions. Many of these positions are in rural areas, taking advantage of ample space and solar’s unique scalability. Also on the rise are rural solar cooperatives, which invest in and support solar power, like the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. This association is a conglomerate of 44 coops from Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and New Mexico . . . Beyond the jobs market, rural consumers also stand to gain from the advent of affordable solar technology. The cost of solar panels has been declining for some time, allowing more and more rural consumers to install them on their property. Click here to read the entire article.
RELATED REPORT & NEWS STORIES PREVIOUSLY FEATURED
Center for Rural Affairs Report: Link to Rural Development And A Renewable Future, written by Lucas Nelsen, Policy Program Associate The United States continues to develop new clean and renewable energy resources to replace aging, carbon-emitting generating facilities. Many of these new additions [are] located in the Midwest and Great Plains, regions of the country that boast some of the richest wind energy resources in the nation. Rural communities in these regions stand to benefit from new renewable development, as projects provide new economic activity and revenue for these areas. Download the full report (PDF).
Electric cooperatives that have taken the plunge into solar energy are the stars of a new website aimed at persuading more co-ops to add solar energy to their mix. RuralSolarStories.org, produced by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), features the tales of three rural electric cooperatives across the Midwest that have responded to customer interest by investing in solar generation. More stories are on the way. Continue reading.
Photo: Warren McKenna of Farmers Cooperative in Iowa explains the decision to pursue solar power
By Tina Casey, Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit
The U.S. Energy Department pushed out a raft of good news for renewable energy fans this past week. Of particular note is an update on the PV System Toolkit supported by the agency’s SunShot solar initiative. The toolkit focuses on helping rural communities partake in the surging solar market that cities and suburban communities now enjoy. The new PV System Toolkit demonstrates just how deeply the solar industry is now embedded in the civic infrastructure of the US. The effort is helmed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), which won an Energy Department ‘Sunrise’ award designed to cut costs by developing templates for replicating solar innovations. Read more.