(MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF.) –The general managers of two rural electric cooperatives – Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) in Portola, Calif., and Okanogan County Electric Cooperative (OCEC) in Washington – will join President Obama today at a Walmart in Mountain View, Calif., to announce solar projects, including 150 megawatts of new solar capacity planned by 199 electric co-ops in 27 states and American Samoa.
“Across the country, member-owned, not-for-profit rural electric cooperatives are leveraging the benefits of cost-effective solar for their consumer-members,” said Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “True to the principle of putting members first, co-ops are leading in the development of community solar, an innovation that allows more consumers access to the benefits of solar.”
PSREC general manager Robert Marshall announced plans for a community solar project in Portola, Calif., one of more than 35 community solar projects co-ops are planning. Using a low-interest loan from the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, the co-op will provide members with opportunities for community and roof-top solar.
PSREC is also one of four co-ops partnering with Department of Defense (DOD) facilities on solar projects. The co-op is developing a 2-MW solar array as part of the DOD’s Net Zero program. The co-op will own the solar system at the Sierra Army Depot and sell the output to the Army. The co-op also manages an innovative solar net-metering program for members with irrigation systems.
Also joining the President is David Gottula, general manager for OCEC, the first utility in Washington State to bring community solar online. The co-op, with 3,500 consumer members, partnered with the town of Winthrop and community organizations to make solar available to members.
Through the Cooperative Research Network, NRECA’s research arm, co-ops are partnering with the Department of Energy on research to bring down the price of solar and make utility-scale solar projects accessible to the not-for-profit co-ops. CRN is also working with five universities to help train utility staff on integrating renewable energy to the grid.
Co-ops are making significant investments in renewable resource generation, using loans from RUS and other sources. With solar becoming more cost-competitive, electric cooperatives are poised to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in new projects. In addition, co-ops purchase renewable energy from large projects such as the 31 MW Cimarron Solar Facility in New Mexico and the 7.7 MW Azalea Solar Power Facility in Georgia.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.