United Power works tirelessly behind the scenes year after year to bring our members safe and reliable power and the tools they need to monitor and control usage patterns that could save them money. This past year has been no different for the cooperative, which took steps to be among the first to adopt utility scale battery storage and rolled out several exciting programs for members to utilize in their daily lives to understand how some behaviors may impact their bill.
Working the Lines
The ability to provide power begins with our linemen. As one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, linemen put themselves in harm’s way every day to ensure the steady stream of power to our members. In 2018, the cooperative completed construction on a new state-of-the-art training facility for linemen, comparable in size and scope to some of the state’s largest. Just as you’ve come to expect from United Power, we went above and beyond, including the most innovative ideas from training yards across the country. From a series of low and high poles, linemen are able to practice a variety of situations to be better prepared to safely face anything they might experience in the field.
Bird’s Eye View
For the past few years, United Power has prioritized preventative maintenance of its electrical infrastructure. For this reason, United Power became one of the first electric utilities in Colorado to utilize unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to monitor our power lines. While the project began in the mountain territory nearly two years ago, it was rolled out in phases to the plains territory this past year, beginning in Brighton. Drones offer a safer and more time efficient option for diagnosing potential repairs that need to be made on poles and can often offer the information before outages happen. The project, to date, has examined more than 30 miles of power lines, saving countless man-hours and preventing outages.
When it’s Unpreventable
Despite our best efforts, not all outages are preventable. To provide members with more information related to outages impacting them, United Power rolled out an all-new user friendly outage map in early 2018. The new information shows detailed outage information including number of members affected and cause, among other things, without sacrificing safety and security.
Co-op Continued its Innovative Approach in 2018
Free Resources for Members
In early 2018, United Power began rolling out a new free online resource, the Power Portal, which allows members to monitor their energy usage in 15-minute increments to decide what behaviors had the heaviest impact and adjust accordingly. With the Power Portal, members can monitor their usage patterns to keep energy demand costs down.
The cooperative also launched Rush Hour Rewards in partnership with Nest Learning Thermostats to replace its former cycled air program. The smart home appliance gives members more control over energy usage when they’re not at home. Enrolling in Rush Hour Rewards with your Nest allows United Power to adjust your thermostat a few degrees on hot summer days to save you energy, and rewards you for it at the end of the summer.
Leading the Way
United Power members have been quick to adopt solar energy, setting the bar high for other utilities to follow. In November, the cooperative celebrated its 3,000th rooftop solar connection. According to a 2018 report, United Power ranks among the top 50 utilities nationwide in solar energy and second among cooperatives in connected solar. Our commitment to renewable energy leads the way among all 43 cooperatives in Tri-State’s four-state region.
Also in November, we energized the state’s largest utility-scale battery storage facility at our new west office. The battery system generates 4 MW of electricity and is expected to save the cooperative $1 million in wholesale energy charges. The project, developed in collaboration with ENGIE North America, is enough to power up to 700 homes simultaneously. While not technically being used as a renewable energy source, battery storage represents the next logical step in the progression of renewable energy.
Commitment to Cooperative Principles
Most of us never go more than a few hours without some form of power, whether that’s work, school or home or the commute in between. When United Power lineman Kelly Snow was given the opportunity to join a group of linemen from Colorado and Oklahoma to build the infrastructure necessary to provide two remote jungle villages with power for the first time, he jumped at it. In September, the group left for Guatemala for three weeks to volunteer for the project through NRECA International. When asked why the trip meant so much to him, Snow responded with the Rural Electric Association’s principle of bringing electricity to rural parts of the country and those who are underserved.
Throughout 2018, United Power had many opportunities to celebrate continual growth and innovation with members and leaders in the communities we serves. As we look to the future, we’ll continue to set the bar for others to follow. We look forward to all 2019 has to offer, and continuing to provide our members safe and reliable power.