KCEC leading charge in building resilient energy roadmap for rural electric cooperatives
Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC) today announced it has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to participate in a collaborative research effort exploring new ways solar energy can improve the affordability, reliability, and resiliency of the rural electric grid. There are more than 900 electric cooperatives in the United States, covering approximately two thirds of the land mass with more than 42 million electric meters, many of which are evaluating the opportunities and value of deploying renewable energy for their members.
KCEC is one of just nine teams selected to join the program, which is known as the Solar Energy Innovation Network. “We selected teams that are experimenting with promising ideas to use solar power to improve the future of grid security and reliability in their communities,” said Kristen Ardani, who leads the Solar Energy Innovation Network at NREL.
“KCEC has been working towards providing resilient, renewable energy for all our members equally since 2002,” said Luis A. Reyes, CEO, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, Inc. “The importance of this work is to demonstrate that renewable energy can be technically integrated into a rural grid in a way that allows all members access to renewable energy, rather than only a few members. This project will provide a pathway for other rural cooperatives, municipalities and communities to enter into the deployment of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) given the fast pace of the changing market and member desires.”
The Solar Energy Innovation Network will provide financial, analytical, and facilitation support as KCEC works to anticipate and address new challenges and opportunities stemming from solar energy and other distributed energy technologies for the Enchanted Circle in Northern New Mexico. The solutions developed and demonstrated by KCEC will serve as a blueprint for other communities facing similar challenges and opportunities. The goal is to demonstrate that solar and battery storage can play a significant role in the energy mix thereby minimizing reliance on fossil fuels. The intent is to build a broader model that enables rural electric cooperatives to integrate renewable energy with storage into their portfolios for increased resiliency.
Specifically, KCEC’s project will create an energy roadmap to develop up to 35 megawatts (MW) in small solar arrays by 2022 that will result in providing 34 percent of the total electricity demand – and 100% during daylight hours on sunny days. KCEC will also implement a battery technology demonstration project, thus further advancing the Solar Energy Innovation Network’s objectives.
KCEC currently has approximately nine MWs of solar renewables online, which accounts for 24 percent of the daytime load. An additional 10 MWs of solar energy are planned and scheduled for construction in 2018. These solar arrays—ranging between one and three MWs—will be placed strategically in KCEC’s extensive service territory for optimal performance. Additionally, the project will spur economic development and create jobs in rural locations.
“Cost-effective, reliable, and clean energy is an important decision for all rural communities today,” said KCEC CEO Reyes. “At KCEC, we are ensuring the greatest benefit to the community both in the long-term cost of power and the creation of local jobs. The inclusion of KCEC’s solar arrays and gigabit broadband network—with integration of smart meters and battery storage—provides a unique gateway for rural grid modernization.”
KCEC has been steadily making progress over the past decade in responding to members’ requests for renewable energy options. The technical challenges in a rural, mountainous service area are formidable yet not insurmountable. One challenge is assessing how technical solutions translate into the emerging business model that keep rates stable or lower. KCEC is confident that solutions can be found with the assistance of partners like Guzman Energy, KCEC’s new full requirements power supplier.
“For more than a decade, the UNM-Taos Klauer Campus has been home to a 3.5-acre, 500-kilowatt solar power generation station containing 2,700 photovoltaic panels,” added Dr. Patrick L. Valdez, CEO, UNM-Taos. “It provides 100% of daytime electric energy requirements for the campus and feeds excess power back into the grid that serves businesses and residences throughout the region. When built, it was the largest solar array in New Mexico. But thanks, in part, to Kit Carson’s unwavering commitment to clean, sustainable power, that is no longer the case. We are proud of this collaboration with our electric cooperative that will keep the lights on, not just for us, but for the generations to come.”
KCEC is working diligently with key partners and stakeholders during the Solar Energy Innovation Network project. Together we are creating a new business model and a positive, energy future for our families and communities.
About the National Renewable Energy Laboratory
NREL is operating the Solar Energy Innovation Network with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. NREL pursues fundamental research and development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to transform the way we use energy.
About Guzman Energy
Guzman Energy is a specialty energy company that provides energy solutions to customers across North America. The firm is headquartered in Coral Gables, Fla., with an additional office in Denver. To learn more about Guzman Energy, please visit GuzmanEnergy.com.