Energy, Utilities & Water  June 5, 2024

Tri-State buys 2 Colorado solar projects

WESTMINSTER — Not-for-profit wholesale power supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association has closed on the purchase of two solar projects in Colorado under the direct-pay provisions of the federal Inflation Reduction Act.

The projects purchased from JUWI Group include Axial Basin Solar, a 145-megawatt project in Moffat County, in member White River Electric Association’s service territory, and Dolores Canyon Solar, a 110‐MW project located in Dolores County, in member Empire Electric Association’s service territory.

Financial terms of the acquisitions were not released. 

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The Axial Basin project is on land near the Colowyo Mine, which will end production later this decade. Both solar projects are scheduled to begin delivering power for Tri-State’s member systems in late 2025, when its members are expected to  reach the milestone of 50% renewable-energy use.

With the passage of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, not-for-profit electric cooperatives can receive direct payment of federal renewable-energy tax credits, allowing cooperatives to invest directly in the ownership of renewable resources. Before the IRA’s passage, Tri-State and electric cooperatives in general could not directly benefit from the federal renewable-energy tax incentives available to for-profit investor-owned utilities and independent power producers.

“Through Tri-State, our members now have ownership in solar at a competitive cost,” said Duane Highley, chief executive officer for Tri-State. “We greatly appreciate JUWI’s work with our team to complete this transaction for the purchase of these two solar projects.”  

“JUWI is excited to be working with Tri-State on two of the first 100+MW solar projects in western Colorado,” said Steve Ihnot, chief financial officer for JUWI Inc., in a prepared statement. “We look forward to executing the projects with the shared values of safety, quality, coordination with the local communities, and value to the customers.”

In a news release issued by Tri-State, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said “I’ve worked for years to allow rural electric co-ops like Tri-State to access federal clean-energy tax credits. The passage of the historic Inflation Reduction Act made that possible for the first time, finally allowing them to own renewable energy projects. This progress will help Tri-State deliver enormous benefits to the rural communities it serves and support Colorado’s continued leadership in our nation’s transition to a clean energy economy.” 

In addition to the projects Tri-State is purchasing, it is adding another three solar projects to its resource portfolio which will be completed by the end of this year. These include two projects in southern Colorado, called Spanish Peaks and Spanish Peaks II, and one in New Mexico, called Escalante Solar. At the end of 2025, Tri-State will serve its members with 680 MW of solar across eight facilities, with solar power serving the equivalent needs of nearly 200,000 homes. With utility electric distribution cooperative and public power district members in four states. It delivers power to more than a million electricity consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the West. 

Brighton-based electric cooperative United Power officially unplugged from Westminster-based Tri-State on May 1 to mark the culmination of a long and contentious divorce that gained final approval late last year.

The German-based JUWI Group, which offers project development, construction and operational management of renewable-energy plants, employs more than 1,300 people worldwide, with subsidiaries in the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa. To date, it has implemented more than 1,250 wind energy plants with a capacity of more than 3,000 MW and approximately 2,000 solar photovoltaic plants with a total capacity of more than 4,000 MW. 

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