John Villyard: Reliability concerns for electricity in Southern Colorado |

John Villyard: Reliability concerns for electricity in Southern Colorado

John Villyard, CEO
San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative

Ceal Smith’s opinion piece fails to address the key reason the San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative needs new transmission infrastructure to serve the Valley: reliable electricity.

Southern Colorado continues to face reliability concerns resulting from aging transmission lines that are near capacity and form a “radial,” one-way infrastructure serving the San Luis Valley. The proposed line between Walsenburg and Alamosa would create a redundant “loop” of transmission, alleviating reliability concerns and providing a conduit for renewable energy in this solar- and wind-rich part of the state.

Without this line, the life blood of the Southern Colorado economy – farmers, ranchers, businesses and industry – will continue to face increased electric reliability challenges. This includes the very real chance of extended outages that could occur due to the loss of an existing line resulting or the shedding of loads due to high electricity demand that exceeds the capacity of the current system.

Ms. Smith believes distributed generation is the solution to our valley’s energy challenges. Certainly, our co-op supports distributed generation as part of the solution, but not as the sole solution.

The reality is the nature of the alley’s electric loads, mainly due to agriculture and irrigation, places demands on the system at times when the sun may not shine and the wind may not blow. To ensure reliability and meet the needs of the valley, distributed resources must be part of a robust electric system that includes sufficient transmission to meet the needs of our community.

Should we not invest in our transmission system and our valley electric distribution grid fails because we don’t have enough electricity, the reality is that grid-connected distributed resources will also likely not work. Robust transmission infrastructure and distributed generation in the valley are not mutually exclusive – in fact they are supportive.

Finally, both Tri-State, which San Luis Valley is a part owner of, and Xcel Energy perform extensive analyses and processes to engage the public to collect comments and information, and then minimize and mitigate potential impacts of transmission projects, including those to land use, cultural and natural resources. As part of the siting process, a number of alternatives were examined that support the purpose and need, at the least cost and impact.

This careful planning coupled with the need for this transmission line has spawned support from across the Valley, numerous Colorado counties, Rep. John Salazar and the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office.

The San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative takes seriously its role to provide reliable and affordable electricity to its consumer-owners in the Valley, and we support Tri-State and Xcel Energy’s efforts to responsibly plan and develop the infrastructure needed for us to serve our communities.

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