Tri-State to invest in solar with next Northwest Colorado projects |

Tri-State to invest in solar with next Northwest Colorado projects

Power supplier set to build 8 renewable energy projects

An aerial view of Craig Station, part of Tri-State Generation & Transmission.
Craig Press file photo

CRAIG — Shortly after announcing in mid-January that it would close its remaining coal-fired power plants in Colorado and New Mexico by 2020, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association quickly set its sights on a new outlet.

Tri-State announced recently it is contracting for a new solar power project in Moffat County in Northwest Colorado as it moves towards the end of its coal-fired power generation in the state.

Along with the announcement of eight renewable energy projects in Colorado and New Mexico, Tri-State announced the Axial Basin Solar 145-megawatt project, which is to build on the land near the Colowyo Mine between Meeker and Craig, which is set to close in 2030.

The site near the Colowyo Mine is in the service territory of Tri-State member White River Electric Association, according to the power provider.

The project announcement comes one week after the power provider shook up Northwest Colorado, announcing that it plans to shut down the Colowyo Mine and the Craig Station coal-fired power plant that the mine supplies by 2030, effectively shutting down its coal-fired power generation in state.

Craig Station and the mine currently employ nearly 500 people. Along with the plant’s closure by 2030, the move is also expected to result in the closure of Trapper Mine between 2026 and 2030. That mine currently employs 185 workers.

In addition to the Axial Basin Solar project, Tri-State also announced the construction of the Coyote Gulch Solar 120-megawatt project in La Plata Electric Association’s service territory in southwest Colorado, as well as the Dolores Canyon Solar 110-megawatt project in Empire Electric Association’s service territory.

It has contracted with juwi Inc., a solar power developer, to build all three projects, according to the official announcement.

Tri-State also has contracted for the construction of a 200-megawatt project in New Mexico near Escalante Station, another coal-fired power plant that will close by the end of the year.

The four announced projects, along with four eastern and southern Colorado wind and solar projects that were also announced Jan. 15 will result in more than a gigawatt of renewable power being added to Tri-State’s portfolio by 2024, according to the company.

The power provider says that, by 2024, it will have enough renewable power to meet the power needs of 850,000 homes. Additionally, Tri-State expects the projects to help offset some economic impacts to the communities affected by the closures.

“Axial Basin represents an early reinvestment in northwestern Colorado, in light of our recent announcement on the Craig Generating Station and the Colowyo Mine,” Tri-State CEO Duane Highley said in a news release. “We will continue our commitment to the local community, as we move forward with the transition of our resources.”

Lee Boughey, Tri-State’s spokesman, added that the Axial Basin project will have a number of construction jobs right away, according to juwi. The project will require at least 400 temporary jobs for six months and an average of 150 jobs over a 14-month period during construction.

The project will be built, owned and operated by juwi, and is scheduled to come online in 2023 and will generate enough power to meet the needs of about 40,000 homes.

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