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American electric cooperatives move towards renewables

American electric cooperatives are doubling down on renewables. Why? Because consumer concern for the environment affects the way things are done, and it’s also due to the idea of lower operating costs. These forward-thinking electric co-ops are adopting solar or wind power, but the transition hasn’t been smooth.

The reason for the hardship is that several electric cooperatives are involved with Transmission Association and Tri-State Generation, which still generate half of their supply with fossil fuels. Some of these co-ops are buying out, such as Kit Carson, who is now partnered with Guzman Energy, and they plan to invest more into New Mexican solar.

As a result, Tri-State has communicated the intention of moving into renewable energy generation, and they have retired their coal station in Colorado three years early so that the air quality of the state can go according to plan. However, this effort hasn’t made much of a difference to electric co-ops and their decision to move on. Co-ops are contracted to purchase 95% of their electricity from Tri-State, but they want to adopt battery storage and renewables, which are a lot cheaper.

United Power, for example, has built a storage facility that offers 19.2 megawatt-hours of interconnected capacity. This project has placed the company at the number-10 spot on the list of US battery storage utilities by the Smart Electric Power Alliance. Inspired by this, many electric cooperatives in America are joining in. In South Carolina, Central Electric Power Cooperative announced their plans to buy 150 megawatts of solar power. The two installations are among the largest ones in the state, and each of them will produce enough power for 30,000 homes.

North Dakota’s Basin Electric Power Cooperative will start sourcing 400 to 500 megawatts of solar and wind generation. In Texas, electric cooperatives earned the ownership right to energy storage facilities this past September, which has paved the way toward solar generation. In New Mexico, a new standard for renewable energy was set for utilities owned by investors. In Denver, Solar United Neighbors has created many renewable cooperatives and they’ve also made solar installations on the roofs of homes in Fort Collins and the Yampa Valley.

In Minnesota, Lake Region Electric Cooperative began sourcing power from Juhl Energy, which has been utilizing a whole new method of bringing solar and wind energy together into the one system. The question is this: Why have electric co-ops started making the jump towards renewable energy? Because if renewable energy is produced locally and it’s consumed locally as well, consumers will save a little money, plus the lowering of the carbon footprint is a nifty bonus.

Another primary focus of electric cooperatives is the construction of charging stations for electric vehicles, which is obviously great news for the future of electric vehicles as well as the modernization of infrastructure. The fact that electric cooperatives are recognizing the value of renewables and are moving away from providers that still work with fossil fuels is a huge step in the right direction—not just for the health of the world but for the future of the country.

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