Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association on Thursday said it is seeking proposals from developers to add more renewable power to its energy portfolio.

The utility said this is the sixth time it has issued requests for proposals for renewable energy resources. Its efforts come as some of the local energy cooperatives it serves, such as Delta-Montrose Electric Association, have been pushing it to move toward more renewable power and less reliance on coal-fired energy due to both environmental and rate concerns. DMEA is asking the state Public Utilities Commission to decide on a fair amount for it to pay Tri-State to break its contract and leave the association.

Tri-State first put out a request for renewable power proposals in 2007. It now has power purchase contracts for 656 megawatts of utility-scale wind and solar power, including a 100-megawatt solar project and 104-megawatt wind project scheduled to go into production over the next few years.

"When renewable energy prices were higher, Tri-State took a measured approach to renewable acquisitions. As prices have decreased, Tri-State has accelerated the pace of its renewable additions. The association's weighted average cost of all wind and solar power purchase agreements … is now less than half of what it was in 2009," Tri-State said in a news release.

About a third of the energy consumed by its 43 member electric cooperative and public power districts in four states now comes from renewable sources.

Duane Highley, Tri-State's chief executive officer, said in the release that the latest request for proposals "advances our drive to be a 21st century power supplier for our members that is increasingly flexible and clean."

It is seeking requests for projects between 10 and 200 megawatts in size, with purchase agreements covering 15 to 25 years, and a preference for projects in the service territories of its members. Some of those members have been wanting to see more of their power come from more local sources for economic development reasons.

As a not-for-profit, Tri-State gets the best pricing by working with renewable project developers. The developers are better able to take advantage of federal tax benefits than Tri-State is. It says it will be considering "build-transfer" proposals in which it would own and operate solar projects after developers have built them and captured the tax credits.

Tri-State expects to decide on any new projects by the end of the year.

Tri-State already is the leading solar generation and transmission cooperative in the country.

"With competitive electricity markets and our renewable energy contracts, Tri-State is dispatching coal resources less, has closed one coal unit and will retire two other coal units," Brad Nebergall, a Tri-State vice president, said in its release.

It plans to close its Nucla Station coal-fired power unit in western Montrose County by the end of 2022 and one of three coal-fired units at the Craig Station in Moffat County by the end of 2025.

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