Monday, June 24

The Crestone Eagle is a nonprofit monthly newspaper serving Crestone and the San Luis Valley

SLVREC plans for solar panel installation in ‘24

By Matt Lit

A new solar array at the Moffat substation will help offset energy costs for members of the San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative (SLVREC). The panels — 26 in all — are expected to be installed beginning early next year in a project spearheaded by the SLVREC, according to Terry Daley, engineering manager for the co-op. 

Members, especially those in the Crestone/Baca community, have long expressed a desire to see more renewable energy added into the power mix here, Daley said. This project represents a starting place. Daley added that a strong voice for renewables has been brought to the co-op and its board by Wade Lockhart, a Crestone/Baca resident and member at large on the SLVREC board of directors. As a member at large, Lockhart’s represents all six counties that make up the cooperative. 

“As we started looking at solar and ended up going out to bid, (we found) it was actually cheaper than Tri-State’s wholesale rate. Now it’s renewable and it’s less expensive,” said Daley. “It really is a win-win situation for co-op members.”

Tri-State has 45 members and is the cooperative that brings power to the San Luis Valley. SLVREC distributes that power, he explained. 

While this doesn’t create a micro-grid in the SLV, it does help offset the costs by offsetting the kilowatt hours purchased from TriState, with lower cost local generation. The direct benefit to users is a slightly cheaper electric rate by offsetting that portion of the overall Tri-State bill. “All members share in that benefit,” said Daley, adding, “We’re reducing our carbon footprint and greenhouse gas.” 

The project is expected to offset greenhouse gasses by about 3.3%, using the Department of Energy’s greenhouse gas calculator, according to Daley. Tri-state is also increasing its commitment to renewable energy sources. According to its website, Tri-State is “accelerating the retirement of our coal generation and adding clean energy in locations across our members’ service territories. We’ve recently added two utility-scale wind projects and we’re adding six utility-scale solar projects, bringing our system up to over 2 gigawatts of renewables by 2025.” 

SLVREC is pursuing grants to help achieve this greenhouse gas reduction. One grant process, initiated by a Letter of Interest on September 15, is tailored to this goal, he said. 

The application was to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant and loan program titled Empowering Rural America (New ERA). The program is aimed at helping rural America transition to clean, affordable, and reliable energy. 

The USDA website states: “By reducing air and water pollution, New ERA funding improves health outcomes and lower energy costs for people in rural communities. 

New ERA program funding is available to member-owned rural electric cooperatives, which have been the backbone of America’s rural power delivery for nearly a century. This $9.7 billion program is part of the federal Inflation Reduction Act and represents the largest investment in rural electrification since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act into law in 1936.”

Locally, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) put together a renewal energy-related grant. This DOLA application includes three projects in the state, said Daley. It could potentially provide up to 100% funding through the Department of Energy and State funding programs, a huge impact for our region, said Daley.

photo courtesy SLVREC

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