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Comanche 3 minority owner sues Xcel Energy

A part-owner of the Comanche 3 coal-fired power plant near Pueblo has sued Xcel Energy’s Colorado subsidiary, claiming that the company breached its contractual obligations related to operation and maintenance of the coal plant.

Sedalia-based Core Electrical Cooperative (formerly called Intermountain Rural Electric Association) owns 25% of the coal plant. The plant began operation in 2010, making it Colorado’s youngest coal plant by almost three decades and, with 750 megawatts of generating capacity, Colorado’s largest.

Core blames Xcel with failure to operate the coal plant in a “manner consistent with prudent utility practices.” The result, it says in not quite so many words, has been that what was supposed to be a model of high efficiency has been a lemon. It says the plant has averaged 91 days a year of being out of service, lowest of any of Xcel’s generation facilities in Colorado.

The electrical cooperative  cites something called equivalent availability factor, or EAF, which was predicted to be 95. In fact, Comanche has had an EAF of 71—lower even than the adjoining Comanche units completed in 1973 and 1975.

The complaint is heavily reliant upon reports by the Colorado Public Utilities staff.

In the lawsuit filed in Denver District Court, Core alleges it has lost money because it has been forced to buy power elsewhere at higher cost.

The lawsuit is heavily redacted—even blacking out the ownership of the plant. (Holy Cross Energy owns 8%, although it has consigned the output to Guzman Energy). This is at Xcel’s wishes, says Core in a press release, although Core wants the information to be fully available.

Links to the documents can be found on the Core website.


South Korean company buys Vestas tower factory

A South Korean-based company called CW Window now owns the wind tower factory in Pueblo. The prior owner, Vestas, has retained ownership of its other factories in Brighton and Windsor.

A Pueblo Chieftain story laid out the press release basics, but did not probe why Vestas would sell the plant in Pueblo but not the others.

The Pueblo factory, the world’s largest for wind towers, is being expanded, indicating a belief in even greater demand. But demand lately has slowed.

“There is a slow down at the present moment, but no doubt we will see a need for what we can produce in the short future,” said Knud Bjarne Hansen, the co-chief executive of CS Wind.

The company also has facilities in Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, and Turkey. No plans have been announced for selling of its other factories in Colorado, located at Brighton and Windsor. The company in February announced it was laying off 450 employees.


Hyperloop testing facility in the works for Pueblo

Swisspod Technologies has announced that it has linked with two partners to build a hyperloop testing facility at the PuebloPlex, the site of the former U.S. Army Depot located east of downtown Pueblo.

The company in July completed development of Europe’s first hyperloop test track.

Hyperloop is an old idea given fresh energy in 2012 by Elon Musk and his prize money of SpaceX. As explained on Wikipedia, his initial concept incorporated reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on air driven by linear induction motors and axial compressors. The goal would be to move people or objects at airline speeds while being energy efficient as compared with existing high-speed rail systems.

The Space X competition sponsored by Musk has driven a variety of initiatives, some of which have continued to move forward while others have faltered.

The Pueblo Chieftain says Swisspod, a company founded in 2019, has won multiple awards in the Hyperloop Competition hosted by Musk’s SpaceX.

Hyperloop One struck a partnership with Colorado, as the New York Times reported in 2017. The company later became Virgin Hyperloop. But a 2020 report posted on the Colorado Department of Transportation website said hyperloop was no longer being pursued by C-DOT.


United Power to host fleet electrification session

With transportation now the single largest sector for greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado, attention is rapidly shifting to what can be done to electrify fleet vehicles.

On Wednesday, Sept. 29, United Power will host a conference from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to help managers figure out what they need to know going forward.

“Medium and heavy-duty EV trucks are expected to be a significant share of grid energy usage in the coming decade, so we want to start discussing this topic with our public and private fleet operators now,” explained Joe Danforth, energy programs and new business director at United Power.

United expects the infrastructure bill now in Congress to include funding for transportation electrification projects.

Loveland-based Lightning eMotors, which specializes in sustainable commercial fleet vehicles, will give a presentation. It operates on a national level and will have fleet vehicles at United’s Carbon Valley Service Center, which is at 9586 E. I-25 E. Frontage Road, between Firestone and Longmont beginning at 8 a.m.

Also speaking will be representatives fromUnited Power, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and Northern Colorado Clean Cities. They will talk about Colorado’s new fleet electrification strategy, resources and funding options for fleet services, the growth and availability of charging infrastructure and the future of electrified fleets.

Pre-conference registration is recommended at the United Power website.


Colorado Energy Office starts vehicle electrification studies

The Colorado Energy Office wants stakeholders to participate in two new studies, one on EV Equity and the second on 100% Electrification of the Light Duty Sector Roadmap.

The goal of the first study is to identify communities impacted by transportation-related pollution and identify barriers to EV adoption.

CEO is seeking diverse perspectives on EVs and how the benefits of EVs can be distributed more equitably to all Coloradans. To participate, submit information here.

The second study is to develop a plan for nearly 100% electrification of Colorado’s light-duty vehicle sector by analyzing policies, programs, incentives, and actions the state could undertake. The first meeting was held Aug. 26, but a webinar will be held Sept. 28. To attend, see  information here.

Both studies are expected to be released in early 2022.


Mona Newton to turn over reins at CORE after 9 years

Mona Newton has resigned as executive director of the Aspen-based Community Office for Resource Efficiency, but will remain as in her post while the trustees of the 27-year-old non-profit search for a new leader and a transition by year’s end.

Mona Newton

During the past nine years, under Newton’s leadership CORE has focused efforts on reducing carbon emissions from buildings, the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the community

She was engaged in the work that produced Basalt Vista, the affordable housing project that has drawn national attention because of its absence of natural gas, and the more recent Hub, an employee housing project. She is now focusing on methane escaping from a former coal mine.

Early in her career, she cut her teeth weatherizing trailers and homes for low-income families.  Prior to joining CORE, she was at the Colorado Energy Office for five years.

“After 9 years, I’m ready to turn over the helm of this incredibly impactful and innovative organization to someone new to continue this difficult challenge to beat the race against time to reduce climate emissions,” she said. “It’s the right time, as we’ve accomplished so much, and this is a good time in the organization’s evolution to bring in a fresh face.”


Solar panels near Aspen to be two-faced, to capture the snow-reflected sunshine

Some 13,700 solar panels are now being erected near Aspen in the expectation that the electricity will begin flowing across the transmission lines of Holy Cross Energy by October.

The solar farm is located on 35 acres near the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport on land owned by the Aspen Sanitation District. The sanitation district is getting a 33% credit from Holy Cross on the district’s estimated $280,000 annual electric bill.

The Aspen Times in an Aug. 14 story said the panels are black, instead of blue, to cut down on reflected light on planes flying over. They are also double-sided, so they can absorb energy reflected off the snow during winter.

“Pitkin County and the city of Aspen residents will have the benefit of a local energy source that provides resilience when our only power line becomes threated by wildfire —as we saw recently with the Lake Christine Fire—or another disaster,” said Greg Poschman, a Pitkin County commissioner.


Tesla solar panels go on roof of venture capitalist

In the Aspen area, Tesla solar roof panels are being installed at the home of Jerry Murdock, a venture capitalist.

Murdock told the Aspen Daily News that he hopes that the solar panels will set an example for his neighbors and others because he is replacing flammable wooden shingles with solar panels.

“My motivation for doing this was fire and the fact that it’s difficult to get insurance, no matter what the cost,” he said.

“The majority of my neighbors are absentee second-home owners. What if all of those people got a Tesla roof? A, it would reduce the fire hazard. B, when they aren’t around six to eight months of the year, they could donate that energy to the county and the city, and we could reduce a lot of the carbon problem that we’ve got in this valley.”



solar modelGuzman to buy power from 127-megawatt solar farm in southwestern Colorado

Guzman Energy has entered into a power-purchase agreement for a 127-megawatt solar project being developed near Cortez, in southwestern Colorado.

The Boutique Solar project being developed by Invenergy will generate enough electricity to power 25,000 homes. The solar farm is expected to be operating by the end of 2025. Over its lifetime, the solar project will generate more than $250,000 per year in local property taxes. The facility will produce 300 construction jobs and, then for maintenance, 3 permanent jobs.

Guzman supplies electricity to Kit Carson Electrical Cooperative in New Mexico, Delta-Montrose Electric in Colorado, and the town of Aztec in New Mexico. It also has a partnership with Holy Cross Energy and the city of Fountain, both in Colorado.


A new name for a Colorado agency but also broadened mission in utility regulation

Colorado legislators this year renewed the Office of Consumer Counsel for another 7 years but gave it a new name, the Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate.

Legislators also gave the agency a broadened mission and additional staffing.

SB 21-103 authorizes the agency’s director to consider the state’s decarbonization goals as well as just transition and environmental justice efforts when deciding whether it is in the public interest for it to participate in a proceeding before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

The agency, which was created in 1984, previously had a more narrow mission of looking out after the interests of ratepayers primarily in matters of cost and rates.

For example, this year it has pushed back at the effort by the investor-owned utilities to get major rate increases for electric and gas service provided during the extreme cold on Presidents’ Day Weekend. The agency can reliably be expected to be at the table in such discussions.


Steamboat-based company goes 100% renewable offsets

Big Agnes, a company based in Steamboat Springs named after a local mountain, has committed to buying 100% renewable energy to power each of its three U.S. facilities, the Steamboat Pilot reports.

The company sells sleeping bags and other outdoor gear.

Big Ages has a 6,300-square-foot headquarters in Steamboat Springs, which it leases from the city of Steamboat Springs. With the city, the company jointly purchase 100% renewable energy from the Yampa Valley Association as part of the Green Choice Program.

The company has similar arrangements for its distribution center in Salt Lake City and a warranty and repair center in suburban Salt Lake.


Bye Aerospace gets order for 3 electric aircraft in Iceland

Bye Aerospace has received orders from a flight academy in Reykjavik, Iceland, for three all-electric training aircraft, the most recent in what the company says have been hundreds of orders. It takes two or three years to deliver the aircraft, which are being manufactured in the United States for Bye Aerospace, which is based in south-suburban Denver.,

The aircraft are used to train pilots. The most recent orders are for a two-seater primary training aircraft and a four-seater advanced training aircraft.

The planes have three hours of flight endurance, including reserves. A press release from Bye says this far exceeds the primary competitors in this new niche market of e-aviation, most of which are limited to only a single hour.

Allen Best
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