Co-ops Leading the Way With Energy Solutions
By Jennifer Taylor, a writer of consumer and cooperative affairs
for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
Technology has come a long way since electric co-ops first came on the scene more than 70 years ago. Radios and black and white television sets have been replaced with satellite dishes, high definition plasma flat screens, computers and iPods. All of these things contribute to a better quality of life but also lead to a higher demand for electricity.
Research and demonstration of new technology can also help answer our energy needs. Electric cooperatives recognize the power of technology and remain on the cutting edge in energy research and development. The following are just a few examples of innovative energy projects at co-ops across the country.
Wave energy is produced when electric generators are placed on the surface of the ocean. The rising and falling of the waves moves the buoy-like structure creating mechanical energy that’s converted into electricity. Scientists estimate that harnessing just 0.2 percent of the ocean’s untapped energy would supply enough power for the world.
PNGC Power is taking advantage of this natural resource. Last year, the Portland, Ore.-based generation and transmission cooperative (G&T) serving 15 electric distribution cooperatives in seven western states, signed an agreement with Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) to work cooperatively on the development of a wave energy park, initially generating a total of 2 MW of electric power.
Electric cooperatives are also leaders when it comes to testing and deploying carbon capture and storage (CCS), a sophisticated, complex process that involves separating carbon dioxide gas from power plant emissions. The collected gas is then compressed, pumped down into spent oil and natural gas wells, saline reservoirs, or inaccessible coal seams, and in theory entombed forever.
Basin Electric Power Cooperative, a Bismarck, N.D.-based G&T that supplies wholesale power to 126 member co-ops in nine states, has emerged as a world leader in CCS. Basin Electric Power plans to become the first utility to add CCS technology to an existing coal-based power plant – its 900-MW, two-unit Antelope Valley Station, near Beulah, N.D.
Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, a Taos, N.M.-based electric cooperative, recently unveiled plans for the Kit Carson 1.1 MW Solar Power Photovoltaic System at the University of New Mexico-Taos Klauer Campus. The system will be the largest deployment of its type in New Mexico to date. Solar photovoltaic systems convert the sun’s energy directly into electricity.
Adams Electric Cooperative, in south-central Pennsylvania, has become the first utility in the United States to own and operate a plug-in hybrid electric bucket truck.
“This is part of our goal of making Adams Electric a national leader in efficiency and environmental investment,” remarks Steve Rasmussen, CEO & general manager of the Gettysburg-based electric distribution system.
When parked at a job site, the PHEV’s batteries can run all of the hydraulic equipment as well as a climate control system in the cab for an entire workday without ever starting the engine, leading to reduced noise and no emissions. At night, the truck plugs into a three-phase 240-V outlet so the batteries can charge up during off-peak hours. Adams Electric anticipates the PHEV will consume about half as much fuel as a conventional line truck.
Advancements in battery technology and energy storage have the potential to increase power generation in two ways: stored electricity could be tapped during periods of peak consumption when power plants are running at full capacity; and renewable energy systems, like solar and wind, could become a more reliable resource with the addition of battery storage.
In addition to integrity, accountability and commitment to community - innovation is one of the Touchstone Energy cooperatives values. Co-ops, both here in Illinois and across the country, are walking the talk and working on answers to our energy issues in innovative ways.
© 2015 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
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