SDCEA On Track For Nearly 40 Percent Renewable Energy Use By Early 2019

Groundbreaking, Trout Creek Solar Project

Sangre de Cristo Electric Association, Inc., will approach 40 percent of its power supply provided by renewable sources when the Trout Creek Solar project is online at the beginning of 2019.

Trout Creek Solar will generate approximately 4.7 percent of SDCEA’s annual energy usage. Additionally, more than 300 SDCEA consumers have net meters — meters that measure the generation of power through individual solar, wind or hydro generation, such as that from roof-top solar panels or wind turbines at a home or business. Adding consumer net meter output to Trout Creek Solar’s estimated production, more than 7 percent of SDCEA’s power will be from locally-produced, renewable energy.

Buena Vista Mayor Duff Lacy thanks community solar organizer Sue Greiner for her efforts in developing the project.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission, SDCEA’s wholesale power provider, obtains about 30 percent of its energy mix from renewable sources including solar, hydro and wind sources. Combined with the percentages above, SDCEA will approach 40 percent of its power supply provided by renewable sources when Trout Creek Solar comes online at the beginning of 2019.

Annually, the array will generate about 5,752 megawatt-hours of energy, or enough to supply electricity to about 685 typical SDCEA consumer homes. SDCEA chose a sun tracking system to maximize the output of the array, as it is located in a mountain valley. Trout Creek Solar will only generate power when the sun is shining, notable for any solar power source.

Trout Creek Solar construction was approved and began at the end of September with a groundbreaking ceremony. Representatives from Juwi, Inc., SDCEA, Chaffee County, the city of Buena Vista, CDOC and community members came together to celebrate the positive effect and the local economic impact of the project. SDCEA signed a 36-year site license agreement after 13 months of negotiations with the Colorado Department of Corrections. The project will be located on CDOC property south of Buena Vista.

“The agreement allows this innovative, locally-based project to go forward,” CEO Paul Erickson said. “Trout Creek Solar will bring long-term, renewable energy to SDCEA at a cost-effective price, something that was crucial to us in developing this project.”

The positive effect of the solar array’s local economic impact is lauded by Chaffee County Commissioner Greg Felt.

Because the array will be located on CDOC property at the Buena Vista Correctional Facility, access to and use of the site must comply with security and other considerations of CDOC. The site license is the partnering agreement between SDCEA and CDOC.

“SDCEA is appreciative of CDOC’s willingness to host the Trout Creek Solar facility and the cooperative efforts to attain the site license,” Erickson said.

An international wind and solar energy company, Juwi, Inc., was commissioned by SDCEA to build the solar facility. SDCEA will purchase all the power generated from the solar facility to supply to its consumers. Juwi representatives will complete site studies and begin construction of the 2-megawatt solar generator over the next two months.

A portion of the output from Trout Creek Solar is planned to be available for purchase by consumers as shares or subscriptions to be applied toward their electric bills. The terms of SDCEA’s Community Solar Program have not yet been determined and will be announced as the project proceeds.

Attending the September 24 groundbreaking for the Trout Creek Solar project are Mark Inhot, project manager and Steve Inhot, chief financial officer of Juwi, Inc., developers of the project; Paul Erickson, Sangre de Cristo Electric Association chief executive officer; Dan Daly, vice president of the SDCEA board; Kellie Wasko, Colorado Department of Corrections deputy executive director and Rick Raemisch, CDOC executive director.

Trout Creek Solar Over the Past 21 Months

The financial merit of the project and support for sourcing locally-generated solar power to add to SDCEA’s energy mix, as well as the size, cost and output of the solar facility were considered in formulating SDCEA’s business plan.

Extensive negotiations were held to determine the size and configuration of the solar facility, as those parameters are governed by the agreement SDCEA has with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association to purchase wholesale power.

Engineering studies evaluated the potential impacts the solar facility would have on SDCEA’s electric delivery system and determined operational requirements that would allow for integration of the solar facility without negatively affecting the reliability of SDCEA’s grid.

After several months of seeking and reviewing proposals, international firm Juwi, Inc., was chosen in a competitive process.