Another Big Win for Local Solar Energy: DMEA Secures $72M in USDA Funds

June 18, 2024

Western Colorado Co-op to build 20MW solar array with 80 MWh battery storage

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) was one of two Colorado recipients of its Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) program. DMEA was selected to receive a partially forgivable $72 million loan to fund the construction of a 20-megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic array with an additional 80 megawatt hours (MWh) of battery storage.

“This is a monumental win for DMEA and our members. This investment not only enables us to produce affordable energy, further stabilizing member rates, but it also improves local grid reliability. The energy we generate right here at home can be efficiently delivered to our members, bypassing the reliance on distant power plants and extensive transmission lines,” said Jack Johnston, DMEA Chief Executive Officer.

The array is estimated to account for approximately 10% of DMEA’s overall load and will produce enough energy to power roughly 7,000 average homes. Site details are not yet finalized, but the cooperative will own and operate the array and has set 2030 as the target for when the array will be complete and pumping energy into the local grid. The total cost of the planned array is $96 million. The USDA will forgive 40% of DMEA’s PACE loan, and the cooperative intends to seek further assistance through the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act.

“We’re at a powerful crossroads and have the opportunity to leverage several funding programs to directly benefit our members’ pocketbooks. Between the PACE loan and available tax credits, we hope to account for as much as 90% of the total construction costs,” stressed Johnston.

In recent years, rate stabilization has been the core of DMEA’s power supply efforts. In 2020, the cooperative secured a new wholesale energy contract with Guzman
Energy. Soon after, the development of Garnet Mesa Solar, a Delta-county-based 80 MW agrivoltaic array, was announced.

“While reliability will always be our primary goal, rate stabilization is equally important. DMEA is committed to pursuing every opportunity we can to ensure electricity remains affordable. I’m proud to say our efforts have paid off. We’re experiencing our fifth year without a rate increase, and we project 2025 to remain unchanged as well,” said Johnston.