Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Large rural cooperative is adding solar projects in Colorado in an effort to expand 'cleaner power' options

Tri-State service territory in blue (Tri-State photo)
Once a stalwart provider of coal-powered energy, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association will purchase Axial Basin Solar, a 145-megawatt project in Moffat County, Colorado, and Dolores Canyon Solar, a 110-​megawatt project in Dolores County, Colorado, reports Julian Spector of Canary Media. The acquisitions are part of the company's new commitment to providing cleaner energy to its "massive western service territory."

Tri-State is one of the largest rural cooperative utilities in the United States, and it provides power to customers in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nebraska. "The customer base spans 200,000 square miles, more land than the entirety of California," Spector writes. "Just a few years ago, two member cooperatives quit Tri-State to seek cheaper, cleaner power elsewhere. Since then, Tri-State has rolled out a series of clean energy commitments."

Benefit changes within the Inflation Reduction Act have made switching to renewable energy more financially doable for cooperatives. Spector explains, "Chief among them is a ​'direct pay' option that lets nonprofits access the same generous clean energy tax credits as their for-profit peers — even with little to no tax burden. Once Tri-State’s leadership saw clarity on the tax rules, they decided this was the time to strike."

Tri-State is working to provide a balance of energy that will be dependable, affordable and as clean as safely possible. "Now the utility sees ample savings and benefits for its customers in maximizing low-cost renewable generation while ensuring it has enough ​'firm' power — today provided by coal and fossil gas plants — to keep the lights on," Spector reports. "The utility recently hit a new record for instantaneous renewable production on May 24, when wind and solar delivered 87% of its generation for half an hour."

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