Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC), a northern New Mexico provider of electric, broadband, and propane services, has joined the MSL Member consortium. KCEC is a member-owned Electric Distribution Cooperative serving Taos, Colfax, and Rio Arriba Counties with innovative programs, and plans to deploy distributed and renewable energy resources throughout its system.
For the past 75 years, KCEC has been providing electricity to its over 29,000 members, including two Native American Pueblos (Taos and Picuris) and six municipalities (Taos, Questa, Red River, Eagle Nest, Angel Fire and Village of Taos Ski Valley). In addition, KCEC has built out over 2,900 miles of fiber-to-the-premises fiber optic lines for high-speed data, internet, and phone services. KCEC will utilize this fiber and smart meter infrastructure to design and deploy a grid modernization strategy, using information and communications technologies to manage electricity more efficiently, and in support of its renewable energy goals.
Distributed Energy & Renewables Goals
In 2016, the KCEC Board of Trustees voted unanimously to create a plan to achieve the goal of 100% daytime solar by 2022. That same year, KCEC completed its historic buyout from Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which limited coops to 5% solar energy production as a sole source energy provider. KCEC then partnered with Guzman Energy, an independent energy provider, to lead in the development and implementation of a new utility business model based on high levels of third-party and community PV solar generation. In partnership with Guzman, KCEC will deploy a total of 10MW of solar PV in 2018. The goal of 35MW, which will meet the 100% daytime solar goal, will be completed by 2022 by strategically deploying smaller one-megawatt solar arrays throughout the coop’s service area. Complementing its ground-breaking efforts in distributed renewable generation, KCEC has undertaken an extensive battery energy storage component intended to reduce transmission costs and smooth PV intermittency, with plans to integrate BESS’s into its distribution grid in 2019.
NREL Solar Energy Innovation Network Project
Together these elements will be the pilot project for a Resilient Renewable Energy Roadmap for Rural Electric Cooperatives. This roadmap is the formal project of KCEC’s work with (MSL Member) The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Solar Energy Innovation Network, 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.
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. 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.
KCEC thereby seeks to demonstrate a replicable model for other cooperative utilities interested in deploying solar and develop a road map and guidebook for rural electric cooperatives as they integrate resilient, renewable solar energy into their portfolios and participate in regional renewable energy plans. The road map will identify critical points for blending regionally generated solar energy and storage. KCEC seeks to develop a business model and best practices document to shift organizational structure, systems, and procedures which will build the internal capacity to make the clean energy transition, and continue to refine programs to engage stakeholders within their service area.