The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC) to receive $23 million ($15.4 million in Federal funding and $7.7 million in Recipient cost share) to enhance the U.S. power grid’s ability to deliver affordable, clean energy to American communities across northern New Mexico. The funds will advance the Building a Modern, Intelligent Distributed BESS for Resiliency in Northern New Mexico project to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather and wildfires, and strengthen grid reliability, including a community resilience microgrid at the Pueblo of Picuris.
Altogether, three sites have been selected for community resilience microgrids, including the Resilient El Rito project developed and led by the Microgrid Systems Lab, leveraging the 1.5 megaWatt PV array operated by KCEC there. This will enable the El Rito community to sustain all critical loads during a utility outage, while improving system reliability. The other two sites are Picuris Pueblo, which will also develop a community resilience microgrid utilizing its existing PV generation, and Taos Ski Valley, which will develop an emergency backup power supply to sustain short-term loads and support orderly emergency wildfire evacuation.
An associated workforce development program with Northern New Mexico College’s El Rito campus, UNM Taos, and Santa Fe Community College will train apprentices, interns, and operations staff, and will recruit from interested Pueblo members. These will be the first utility microgrids in the State of NM.
The DOE award was part of a $3.5 billion dollar announcement by its Grid Deployment Office. “Extreme weather events fueled by climate change will continue to strain the nation’s aging transmission systems, but President Biden’s Investing in America agenda will ensure America’s power grid can provide reliable, affordable power,” said U.S Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Today’s announcement represents the largest-ever direct investment in critical grid infrastructure, supporting projects that will harden systems, improve energy reliability and affordability—all while generating union jobs for highly skilled workers.”
“Our community members have experienced the pain that comes from extreme weather events like wildfires and the adverse impact they can have on our electricity distribution system,” said Luis A. Reyes, Jr., CEO of KCEC. “We are thrilled that the DOE is being responsive to our need to bring enhanced resiliency to our local grid, including distributed power generation and storage capabilities to ensure reliable electricity for our community members.”
Due to the rural, geographically and demographically diverse nature of its service territory, KCEC is especially vulnerable to impacts of power outages across the region from the threat of wildfire, extreme drought, and high wind events. As showcased by DOE, the project will allow KCEC to perform public safety power shutoffs while maintaining critical power loads and services locally, as well as providing resilience to unanticipated outages. KCEC partners with Guzman Energy for wholesale power and energy management services that emphasize resilient, locally distributed power and storage.
The funds are part of the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships (GRIP) Program, which seeks to enhance grid flexibility and improve the power system’s resilience against growing threats of extreme weather and climate change. Funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and administered by the Grid Deployment Office, the GRIP program leverages federal and private investments to ensure that communities across the nation have a reliable grid that’s prepared for extreme weather while also delivering affordable, clean energy and creating robust local opportunities for economic investment and jobs.