Cogentrix lodges Colorado complaint over ‘back feed’ power for solar facility

Cogentrix of Alamosa LLC filed on Jan. 13 an Amended Verified Petition for Declaratory Order and Formal Complaint against San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative (SLVREC) with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Cogentrix sells electricity from the Alamosa Solar Project to Public Service Co. of Colorado (PSCo) pursuant to a twenty year term Solar Energy Purchase Agreement. The Alamosa Solar Project, with a 30-MW design capacity, was developed by Cogentrix and its affiliates over a period spanning from mid-2009 until commencement of construction in March 2011. Commercial operations commenced in April 2012.

The solar field supplies its own power needs when the solar field is generating. However, during periods when it is not generating – for example, during evening hours – the solar field requires an external source of power to keep its system energized and synchronized to the PSCo 115-kV system and, when necessary, to power the solar tracker hydraulic pumps and other associated systems. During these periods, the solar field receives power back (called ‘”back feed” electricity) from PSCo’s 115-kV transmission system using the same electric lines and associated equipment that is utilized to deliver generated power to PSCo.

“This arrangement is logical and efficient because the electrical connections and systems interconnecting the solar trackers to PSCo’s transmission system, which connections and systems are themselves a part of the solar field, can both deliver power from the solar trackers to PSCo’s transmission system and, when needed, receive power from PSCo’s transmission system and deliver it to the solar trackers and the other elements of the solar field needing power,” the complaint noted. “This arrangement is also typical for generation facilities such as this.”

Although SLVREC does not provide the back feed electricity and did not provide the infrastructure to deliver the back feed electricity, because the Alamosa Solar Project is located in SLVREC’s service territory, SLVREC insists that Cogentrix must pay it for the back feed electricity at a rate that contemplates the use of SLVREC’s infrastructure and consumption of SLVREC’s electricity, said the complaint. “Cogentrix challenges SLVREC’s unilaterally imposed rate as being prejudicial, disadvantageous, unjust, and unreasonable,” it said. “Cogentrix also challenges SLVREC’s unilaterally imposed rate because it does not reflect the actual cost of service rendered and is not based on a cost of service study.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.