Utility Co-Op Connection: NRCO Helping Rural Electrics Pursue Renewable Energy
Mayberry, Anne, Rural Cooperatives
Many electric cooperatives have (embarked upon significant changes in (the way they provide electricity to rural members. One of the more significant changes is the growing use of renewable fuel to produce electric power.
To assist with the development of renewable energy, rural electric cooperative utilities across the country have joined forces to form a new cooperative: The National Renewables Cooperative Organization (N RC O). This new co-op for cooperatives was established in 2008 to find ways for rural electric cooperatives to access a diversified, renewable-power portfolio. Because renewable resources are not evenly distributed throughout the country, gaining access to wind, solar, geothermal and biomass fuel resources is much harder for co-ops in some regions.
Most states now require electric utilities to establish renewable portfolio standards and supply electricity from renewable-energy resources by a specific date, so many rural electric cooperatives are looking for reliable and affordable sources of "green energy." This is where NRCO plays a role.
Cooperative members of NRCO can either purchase power from, or invest in, renewable energy projects. This helps cooperatives without access to renewable resources to tap into renewable energy. As the rate of development of renewable resources increases, NRCO can help cooperatives meet government requirements.
Initial agreement delivers wind power
NRCO recently announced its first agreement to provide wind power to two member-systems: Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative Inc. (SMECO) and Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) in Virginia. NRCO is making this happen through an agreement with E.ON Climate & Renewables North America, a subsidiary of E.ON AG, one of the world's largest energy companies.
Under the purchased-power agreements, the two cooperatives (SMECO and ODEC) will purchase wind power from the Stony Creek Wind Project for the next 18 years. Located in Somerset County, Pa., on a surface mine that once produced coal, the 35 Stony Creek wind turbines have a total possible output of 52.5 megawatts.
"The Stony Creek Wind project will help SMECO meet Maryland's renewable portfolio standard," says Joe Slater, SMECO's chief executive officer. "This agreement will provide a longterm source of renewable power at a competitive cost. It is an innovative way to use the cooperative business model--which has been successful in delivering electric power to rural areas for nearly 75 years--to help rural electric cooperative utilities participate in renewable energy projects, benefitting rural communities."
In addition to benefitting the environment, increased use of renewable resources represents a major economic opportunity for rural areas, adds Jonathan Adelstein, administrator of the Rural Utilities Service of USDA Rural Development. …