Get Big Pivots

Fort Collins-based electrical provider hopes to get up to 25 megawatts of VPPs in its member cities in northern Colorado

by Allen Best

Platte River Power Authority is now soliciting bids for a virtual power plant that could manage up to 25 megawatts of distributed energy resources in the utility’s four member municipalities in northern Colorado. Deadline for proposals from vendors is July 18.

The virtual power plant concept has been broadly seen among electrical utilities as a key strategy for pursuing low to zero-carbon goals.

In a 2023 post, “Clean Energy 101: Virtual Power Plants,” the Rocky Mountain Institute defined a virtual power plant as “a collection of small-scale energy resources that, aggregated together and coordinated with grid operations, can provide the same kind of reliability and economic value to the grid as traditional power plants.”

The RMI posting went on to explain that a virtual power plant, or VPP, is comprised of hundreds or thousands of households and businesses that offer the latent potential of their thermostats, electric vehicles (EVs), appliances, batteries, and solar arrays to support the grid. These devices can be flexibly charged, discharged, or managed to meet grid needs. When these devices are aggregated and coordinated, they can provide many of the same energy services (capacity, energy, ancillary services) as a traditional power plant.”

Platte River’s request for proposal has two primary components:

1) the software systems to allow for distributed energy resource integration in Platte River’s four communities; and

2) customer programs that will be implemented in partnership with the distribution utilities to allow customers to participate in the virtual power plant.

Platte River — consisting of Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont and Estes Park – in December 2018 announced a goal of seeking a 100% non-carbon energy future by 2030. That Resource Diversification Policy, however, defined nine advancements needed to meet that goal.

Since 2018, Platte River has added new renewable resources and battery energy storage. It is committed to joining a full regional transmission organization by 2026.

Whether it can fully achieve that goal of a 100% emission free electrical grid that is reliable, however, remains in question.


About that all-sources RFP

In December, the directors agreed to issue a request for proposals about how demand can be met as the utility shifts from coal. Coal currently provides 431 megawatts of generating capacity and natural gas 388, almost two thirds of the total generating capacity of 1,254 megawatts.

Platte River received 14 proposals from 10 different developers in response to its all-dispatchable RFP. Five were non-conforming because they didn’t meet the reliability and pricing criteria. Most of the proposals are located at or near Rawhide, the coal plant north of Fort Collins, (see photo above), and two proposals are located in southern Wyoming near Cheyenne. The utility’s staff is still reviewing the proposals.

Allen Best
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