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Cooperative putting together storages, natural gas and other pieces for when it leaves Tri-State on Jan. 1


At his office 25 miles northeast of downtown Denver, Mark Gabriel continues to add components to the electric grid for United Power that he will oversee beginning next May.

It’s part of the what Gabriel, the chief executive, calls United Power’s “strategy of hyper-localizing generation and storage.”

In December, United announced plans for 34 megawatts of battery storage. The batteries will be able to be discharged for up to six hours for a total discharge capability of approximately 74 gigawatt-hours during one year of operation. The battery gives the electrical cooperative the ability to balance load and further integrate renewable resources into its operations.

“The use of batteries on our distribution network is essential to a resilient and responsive power system and we are excited to be moving ahead aggressively with Whetstone to get this system online,” said Gabriel.,. By the measure of total electrical demand, it is the largest cooperative in Colorado, with 110,000 customers stretching from the foothills to the oil and gas fields on the northern fringe of metro Denver.

“These battery arrays will give us the ability to balance our power needs throughout the day and incorporate local renewables more efficiently. This furthers our efforts in hyper-localizing our power supply.”

The contract with Whetstone Power, a developer of sustainable energy infrastructure, is good for 20 years. The company expects the asset to be in place during 2024.

The battery system will be located at a United Power substation and grid-charged, enabling the system to be operated as a six-hour solution, allowing it to discharge over a fairly long duration, thereby providing additional grid stability. This should allow United Power to use more renewable energy, further reducing its carbon footprint while ensuring reliable service to its membership.

United Power was a pioneer in battery storage among Colorado’s electrical utilities. In December 2018 it began using Tesla batteries with 16 megawatt-hours of storage. That remained the largest in capacity until November 2022, when Holy Cross Energy began use of batteries that have more capacity.

United Power has been building a power portfolio ahead of leaving its current power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, on May 1, 2024. The cooperative recently announced a prior agreement with Whetstone, in addition to agreements with Guzman Energy, OneEnergy, and Ameresco for portfolio assets related to this exit.

Diversity is the defining characteristics of this new generation. There’s solar from the San Luis Valley, wind from Guzman Energy, and this and that.

In his November blog post, Gabriel wrote about selection “of at least nine providers” that will replace Tri-State’s power.

“Over time, we will have more control over our generation costs as we increase the amount of carbon-free resources and deploy and manage one of the nation’s first distributed battery storage systems. These systems will allow us to buy and store power when energy prices are low and use it when the demand is high. As a wholesale energy market comes to Colorado in 2026, we will further be able to leverage becoming a distribution system operator by buying and selling resources across the Western marketplace.”

In his January posting, Gabriel further laid out his strategy:

“As we prepare for our upcoming power supply transition, United Power is adding significant amounts of battery storage, spread across our system. We are locating natural gas peaking units tied in to the distribution — versus transmission — networks and contracting with power supplies closer to the communities we serve. This reduces line losses, improves reliability, and keeps tax dollars local. We will couple this with efficiency programs, support any members who want to generate part of their own power through solar, and expand demand response options now that we will have a realistic peak window,” he wrote..

“Of course, we will continue to get power from generation plants and support efforts to build out the transmission grid as it will continue to have a role in a modern electric enterprise. But, we will focus on what we can do locally.”

Allen Best
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