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Tag: renewables

CEO Column: A Balanced Team for Reliability


A Balanced Team for Reliability

March 1, 2024

The winningest basketball teams in history are ones that are consistent and have players with a variety of abilities. Some are better at shooting three-pointers, some are best at defense. Having a balanced mix of skills makes the team a powerhouse on the court. The way to keep electricity reliable is a bit like that too.

The power team requires a foundation of consistent resources that can be put in the game any time they’re needed. Having enough “always available” fuel sources like natural gas can ensure consistent power generation.

Just like a team needs different players for different situations, our power grid requires multiple sources to keep the grid running. Relying solely on one player to win every game is not an effective strategy—if they get injured, you’ll likely lose. Similarly, using a single fuel source for electricity generation poses a significant risk to energy reliability. A diverse mix of energy sources acts as a safeguard, ensuring that the grid remains operational even in the face of unexpected challenges.

A diverse energy mix also enhances grid flexibility by accommodating the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Renewable energy offers an array of cost and sustainability benefits, but to thrive it needs the support of battery storage systems and “always available” power.

Diverse fuel sources contribute to the stability and reliability of the electric grid. The different sources have varying characteristics, including generation patterns, responsiveness and storage capabilities. This diversity allows for a more balanced and resilient energy system that can adapt to fluctuating demand and unforeseen circumstances.

A diverse set of energy sources is essential, but that’s not the only thing we need to have reliable electricity—or a winning team. Trico is constantly innovating to maintain reliability for today and tomorrow.

In that spirit, when we talk about Power Supply our goal is to ensure ample resources incorporating traditional, distributed, and Member-owned assets. That means building new, high-efficiency gas units, operating our Avion and Chirreon Solar and Battery facilities efficiently, and supporting over 5,000 Members with solar at their homes. In the future, it will mean new demand response programs and working closely with our Members to take on power supply challenges.

Like a great team, each one of our resources brings something special to the table, and together, they make sure we have the power we need, whenever we need it.

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Rooftop Solar Considerations


Questions to consider before installing rooftop solar

February 1, 2024

The benefits of installing rooftop solar panels may seem like a no-brainer, but the reality is, not every home (and homeowner’s situation) is always right for solar.

There are several factors to consider before installing a rooftop solar system, like determining if your home will receive enough sun to achieve your goals, finding the right contractor, negotiating contracts and other important details.

Investing in solar for your home is a major decision. If you’re considering rooftop solar, Trico can help. We are committed to providing information and guidance to assist Members in determining if solar is right for them. Our Energy Solutions Program Managers are available to serve as your energy partner throughout the solar interconnection process. To get started, visit our website at www.trico.coop/sustainable-energy or call us at 520-744-2944.

Here are questions to consider before installing rooftop solar panels.

  1. What are my goals? If your primary goal is to save money on electric bills, you may be able to achieve this by improving the energy efficiency of your home. Visit our website for a full list of energy efficiency tips and to see our upcoming free webinars and resources.
  2. Is my roof suitable for solar? Your roof should be in good condition before installing solar panels. If your roof is old and in poor shape, it may need to be replaced before panels can be mounted. Additionally, your roof should receive a lot of sun to make the most of a rooftop system. Consider how much sun (and shade) the roof receives and if any trees will need to be removed. Solar panels perform best when facing south, so keep this in mind as you think about where the panels will be mounted.
  3. How long will I own the home? If you’re considering rooftop solar, you’re likely planning to stay in the home for several years. But if you plan to sell the home at some point down the road, consider that not all potential buyers will want to maintain a rooftop solar system. If you enter a contract to lease the system, carefully review the terms and what those mean if you decide to sell the property.
  4. Lease or purchase? Purchasing a rooftop solar system outright is expensive, which is why many homeowners opt to lease their solar panels. However, federal tax credits can help cover some of the costs for a new system, up to 30%. Regardless of how you decide to finance the solar system, make sure you get several quotes from qualified contractors.
  5. Can the contractor provide up-to-date documentation? Request proof and documentation of the contractor’s licensing, permitting and other credentials. Comb through company reviews. Check the contractor’s status with the Better Business Bureau, the AZ Attorney General’s Office, and the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.
  6. Does the contract seem reasonable and fair? If you decide to hire a contractor to install rooftop solar, carefully read the fine print of the contract. Do the system performance calculations seem realistic? Does the project timeframe sound reasonable? Negotiate the contract terms to fit your goals and needs.
  7. Who will maintain the solar panels? Determining who is responsible for maintaining the solar panels will depend on who owns the system. If you lease the system from a solar installer, it may be their responsibility. Periodically, solar panels may need to be cleaned as dirt and debris can impact panel productivity. Parts may also need to be replaced, so it’s important to know who will take on these responsibilities.

If you decide to install solar, you should contact Trico to understand how the interconnection process works as well as what to expect on your bill. The system will likely be connected to the electric grid, so you’ll need to sign an interconnection agreement.

Did you miss our Virtual Solar Workshop on January 16? A recording of the workshop is available on our website at www.trico.coop/sustainable-energy.

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CEO Column: Innovating for Our Members


Innovating for Our Members

January 1, 2024

Since Trico was formed over 75 years ago, we have been focused on using technology, creativity, and hard work to improve the lives of our Members. From those early days to now, Trico employees have shared a commitment to providing Members with innovative energy solutions. Back then it was bringing power to areas that never had electricity before; now it includes adding cost-effective, sustainable resources, and in the coming years it will include programs to empower our Members to design their service to meet their unique needs.

Innovation is one of Trico’s core values, and something we talk about every day. We are always striving to improve the cooperative and better serve our Members. As we look forward to 2024, I want to share a few of the ways Trico is innovating to build a more resilient and reliable grid, and meet our Members needs.

The Grid of the Future

Trico is enhancing its reliability by replacing existing Oil Circuit Reclosers (OCRs) with Automated Vacuum Reclosers (AVRs). In the coming years, Trico will replace 96 OCRs with AVRs to improve the system’s capacity, reliability, and resilience. Reclosers are high-voltage switches designed to automatically address disturbances on the grid. If a problem is temporary and resolves quickly, the recloser automatically resets itself and restores power, without a need for manual intervention. Installing AVRs will reduce maintenance requirements, give grid operators greater visibility and control of the system, and allow Trico to set up protection profiles to reduce the frequency and length of outages.

Power Supply

Innovation on power supply is all about balance. Trico is continuing to add solar generation and battery storage, supporting Members who choose to install solar at their homes and businesses, and working with our generation partners to invest in new efficient natural gas technology. The goal of this diverse portfolio is to provide reliable, cost-effective, and sustainable service to our Members.

In early 2024, Trico will complete installation of a 10MW Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) at Trico’s Sahuarita Substation. The Sahuarita BESS will be able to power around 2,500 homes for about four hours. The BESS will allow Trico to buy and store energy when wholesale prices are low, which will help Trico avoid expensive market purchases and save money for all Members.

Stay tuned for future updates on additional power supply projects that will be completed or started in 2024. Throughout the year we will be sharing details on several projects that will help Trico meet our goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2032, while ensuring reliable service and affordable prices.

Rate Options

Trico is working to develop a variety of rate options that will provide our Members with choice, and empower Members to better manage their energy usage. The new rates will include additional options for Members with electric vehicles, options for those who want to serve their load with more renewable energy, and other options to help Members tailor their service to match their lifestyle.

The New Year brings hope, opportunities, and new challenges, and Trico is ready to take on the year with a spirit of service and innovation. As always, we are thankful for the opportunity to serve you, our Members. Happy New Year from Trico!


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Free Virtual Solar Workshop

Is solar right for you? Join Trico’s experts virtually as they answer your rooftop solar questions BEFORE you sign with a contractor. Register in advance here.

 

To ask any immediate solar related questions, email us at sunwatts@trico.coop or call us at 520-744-2944, ext. 1524.

CEO Column: Cost-Effective, Sustainable Power


A balanced approach to cost-effective, sustainable power

April 26, 2023

Have you ever considered how handy it is to flip a switch or push a button and have instant conveniences?

It seems so simple; you get a little cold or hot, you bump your thermostat up or down; your family gets hungry, you grab food from your refrigerator and heat it up in the microwave or cook a meal on your stove; stressful day at work, you jump into a hot tub of water.

Electricity is one of those reliable and instant conveniences. More than that, it is necessary to support our daily lives and plays a vital role in powering our future (think electric vehicles, heat pumps, and smart home devices).

Trico takes our responsibility to deliver cost-effective and sustainable power to our Members very seriously. I’d like to use this month’s column to make the point that to accomplish cost-effective AND sustainable, it requires a balanced portfolio of renewable and non-renewable sources, at least for the near and medium term.

As many of you know, there are various methods of electricity generation.

Dispatchable resources include coal and natural gas, which are used to generate electricity by combustion (thermal power). Nuclear power can also be generated through nuclear fission using uranium, the heat of which raises the temperature of water and rotates a steam turbine.

Among renewable energies, sunlight is directly converted into electricity (photovoltaics), rotation energy by wind is converted into electricity (wind power), and rotating water wheels are turned by running water to generate (hydro).

Each technology has its strengths and weaknesses, and currently there is no single source of power that can solve Trico’s mission to be cost-effective AND sustainable all on its own. A quick review of the weaknesses of each technology shows that a diverse mix of resources is vital.

  • Nuclear – Expensive, and hard to finance or site.
  • Coal – Emits carbon and is difficult to adjust to changing load requirements.
  • Wind and Solar – Intermittent, because the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine all hours of the day. Coupling these resources with battery storage helps, but given current technology 24/7 coverage with batteries is not cost effective or practical.
  • Hydro – Subject to water availability and impactful on the environment.
  • Natural Gas – Cost is subject to natural gas markets which can be volatile and emits carbon (although substantially less than coal).

So, what do we do?

It is Trico’s goal to reduce our carbon emissions by 50% by 2032. This will result in increased sustainability at a reasonable cost. We have committed to this goal because it serves our mission, not because of any regulatory requirement. We don’t dispute the importance of transitioning our generation mix over time, and our resource planning shows it can be done in a cost-effective manner. It may be counter-intuitive, but we are also including natural gas generation in our plans. Natural gas generation can ramp up at any time of the day to meet Members’ swings in power usage and to adjust to changing weather. This is necessary to help us meet your power requirements 24/7, 365.

Could we reduce our carbon emissions faster? It may be possible but is not practical. With current technology, the result would be increased costs and/or hours during the year in which power may not be available, and because of supply chain issues related to renewable generation equipment the facilities required might not even be able to be built by the time needed.

Which leads to the point of this column, in order to accomplish sustainability AND cost effectiveness, it requires a mix of multiple generation resources. That has been our strategy in the past and is our strategy moving forward, all to meet our Members’ evolving energy needs. We know you depend on us and it is our privilege to serve our Members and our community.

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