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Recovering heat to produce electricity: a coop partnership

by Susan Simons

When the Journal ran a series of articles about Tri-State Generation and Transmission and their proposal to construct a transmission line through the County, Tri-State public relations requested that Journal staff research Tri-State involvement in renewable energy projects around the state and region.  Following is the third of a series of articles on this topic.

    Heat recovered from the operation of natural gas turbines can produce electricity.  The recovered heat is used to vaporize a fluid which turns a turbine and produces electricity.   Highline Electric Association (HEA), a rural electric coop located in eastern Colorado, is buying the electricity produced by Ormat technologies from the Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline.  Highline expects to save $10 million in power costs over 20 years. The waste-heat project is expected to produce 27,600 megawatt-hours of electricity each year.

    Ormat owns and operates six recovered energy generation (REG) projects in the United States and this one in Colorado which was launched in June 2009.  REG projects have no emissions and have a positive environmental effect because they recover hot exhaust gases that would otherwise be released into the environment.  Because the project is located within the natural gas compressor station yard, extensive new facilities do not have to be built.  The project produces clean, renewable energy and will reduce electricity costs for Highline members.

    Highline Electric was one of the first  cooperatives to benefit under Tri-State’s newest version of its Member Local Renewable Project Program which encourages member coops to develop local and community-based renewable energy projects. Tri-State rewards member coops for renewable projects by performance payments based on the output of the project. Using the State’s Renewable Portfolio Standards to calculate credits, Tri-State made performance payments to Highline of more than $314,000 for the first six months of 2009.

    This was a project that took six years to develop and depended upon the collaboration of four energy entities. At the dedication in June 2009, Mark Farnsworth, HEA General Manager, thanked their Board of Directors for their part in the project.  "The HEA Board saw the potential for savings to our membership and benefits to the environment in this project," Farnsworth said. "Their willingness to pave a road untraveled is why we are here today."

    The development of this heat recovery project is the first of its kind in Colorado.  A representative of the Governor’s office spoke at the dedication saying, "Recovered heat is a very significant and relatively untapped source in our state….”  Farnsworth added, "My hope is that we will be able to begin to see more of this technology developed throughout the state and I believe that this will be a catalyst….  Sometimes you run into something or are able to do something in your career that just makes sense — and this makes sense."

Source of quotes:  Debus, Judy. Journal-Advocate, Sterling, CO in iStock Analyst (2009 June 25).

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