The co-op lights the way to a carbon-neutral future

A rural electric cooperative in the western United States sheds light on the future of the utility sector and how it will address climate change.

Tri-Power Generation and Transmission Association, Westminster, Colo., a wholesale power supplier to 42 member cooperatives in four states, has unveiled a visionary electric resource plan, as required by Colorado law. It’s a document that lifts the veil on Tri-State’s future and where the entire utility sector is headed.

Under the plan, Tri-State will integrate two advances into its system:

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  • 100-hour iron-air batteries will be installed to smooth out fluctuations in wind and solar power.
  • It will build natural gas capacity, and add carbon capture and storage within three years of construction, in 2028.

These two measures will achieve the dreams and plans that the electricity industry has pursued for two decades. It is the dawn of a new era of green electricity.

Iron-air technology combines solar and wind power generation, adding resistance and balancing their intermittency. Lithium-ion batteries used by power companies have a discharge time limited to two to four hours. Iron air is expected to contribute significantly to the stability of overall systems. Expectations are that it will be cheaper.

Likewise, carbon capture and storage is a long-term goal. If it proves mature enough to be integrated into the supply system, the country’s abundant natural gas, favored by energy companies, could continue to be part of the fuel mix.

Under the plan, Tri-State plans to close its coal facilities and shift to more renewable energy, including its continued advance in solar, with plans to install 240 megawatts of new solar capacity, for a total of 920 megawatts of solar capacity in 2031. Buy more From wind energy.

Tri-State says it is committed to reducing emissions, with modest new natural gas resources to support reliability.

Some environmentalists oppose natural gas: its production, transportation, domestic use, and export. Without it, coal would be burned in the United States and abroad.

Anti-natural gas forces pose a challenge to the Biden administration, which wants to get the country out of the gas trade entirely.

Just before Christmas, the Sunrise Movement invited me to join them in urging President Biden to veto a major LNG export project in Louisiana. The project, called CP2, would make the United States a more powerful player in the global liquefied natural gas market. It would allow the nation to counter Russian gas dominance in many countries. It will also hinder the power of gas exporters such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which will increase gas exploration operations.

At some point, gas will flow from fields located off Israel and Lebanon in the eastern Mediterranean.

It could also help countries switch from burning coal to natural gas, a much cleaner fuel.

However, says Sunrise, a youth association promoting the Green New Deal: “It would poison communities and be a climate disaster: experts say it is equivalent to building 52 new coal-fired power plants.”

We’ve seen this kind of single-factor analysis from environmental lobbyists before.

For example, the global and pathological opposition of environmental communities to nuclear energy. It began in the late 1960s and accelerated until global warming slowly began to change opinions.

Environmentalists in the 1960s, determined to destroy the nuclear fuel option, favored coal. Now that coal has been identified as the cause of climate change, the alternatives are wind and solar energy.

Natural gas—which releases just under half the pollutants of coal per kilowatt-hour of electricity production, according to the Energy Information Administration—is within environmentalists’ crosshairs.

Unfortunately, the rigidity of its approach does not allow for the dramatic changes occurring in the electricity sector, as we have seen at Tri-State with its commitment to renewables, reduced emissions, and a resilient system.

And Twitter: @llewellynking2

Llewellyn King He is the executive producer and host of PBS’s White House Chronicle.

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