Wildfire risk lies at the center of grants given three electric cooperatives in Colorado and New Mexico
Resilience in the face of wildfire risk lies at the heart of several grants awarded to electrical cooperatives in Colorado and New Mexico through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships Program.
The money was made available by the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Holy Cross Energy
Wildfire risk lies at the center of a $99 million grant awarded Colorado’s Holy Cross Energy.
Bryan Hannegan has been acutely aware of the risk posed by wildfire since June 2018 when a fire in the Roaring Fork Valley very nearly severed delivery of electricity to Aspen during the ultra-busy Fourth of July weekend.
This was not Hannegan’s first brush with fire. The house in Southern California where he grew up was burned to a crisp by a wildfire, although this was after he had left home.
Holy Cross has launched a wildfire mitigation project with a consortium of 39 rural and not-for-profit electric cooperatives in high-threat areas.
This is being done in with NRECA Research, an arm of the trade organization of the nation’s more than 900 electrical cooperatives. Colorado has 22 of them.
The collaborative project, Wildfire Assessment and Resilience for Networks (WARN), will give participating cooperatives a new tool. That tool will quantitatively reveal the expected direct impacts of utility-ignited wildfires to the regional electricity supply and the local community.
The project locations include not only Colorado and New Mexico, but also Arizona, California, Wyoming, and 11 other states.
Without this grant, Holy Cross has set out to create microgrids, including a solar-plus storage project near the Spring Valley Campus of Colorado Mountain College. Two other similar projects near Rifle and Battlement Mesa are also being completed, and more are planned.
A microgrid can maintain vital functions when flow of electricity from the regional grid is interrupted.
It also plans an Aspen-area microgrid, but that project remains incomplete. And Vail, for that matter, and Eagle remain dependent on connections to the outside world.
Kit Carson Electric
In New Mexico, Kit Carson Electric was awarded $15.4 million to develop battery-anchored microgrids in its Taos-based service territory.
Kit Carson is deploying its battery energy storage systems and microgrid capabilities at three locations. The cooperative is especially vulnerable to impacts of power outages because of threat of wildfire and high-wind events.
Kit Carson must put $7.7 million into the project.
Also in northern New Mexico, its service territory spliced by Interstate 25, the Mora-San Miguel Electric Cooperative has launched a wildfire damage mitigation project to leverage innovative, modern grid technologies to harden its local grid. It is getting $11.2 million in federal funds.
The cooperative has also been afflicted with wildfires in the last several years in its service territories.
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