Empire Electric Association and its wholesale provider, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, provide renewable energy options for their cooperative members.  

In May 2016, EEA collaborated with GRID Alternatives and the Colorado Energy Office to build the first solar garden in Colorado solely dedicated to 100 percent income-qualified subscribers. The partnership between GRID and the CEO was formed to achieve two objectives: to lessen the energy burden for the most financially strapped households and to assist electric utilities to achieve their renewable energy goals. The groundbreaking in Cortez marked the first of many historical projects around Colorado. 

The EEA/GRID CO Solar Garden provides an estimated 36,749 kWhs annually and is located at EEA's main office. It is easily viewable by members being served by or interested in photovoltaic systems. 

Qualified families agree to lease their allotted panels from EEA for five years.  They are billed monthly for grid connectivity, demand charges, and energy consumption while receiving a bill credit for the production of their panels. Subscribers of the solar garden can live more affordably in their homes as part of this "hands-up" opportunity. 

The lasting impacts of the EEA/GRID CO Solar Garden project include energy production valued at $147,545 or the equivalent of 15,859 trees being planted and 100 percent assistance for deserving families.

Since 1998, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association has provided the opportunity for consumers of its 41 member rural electric cooperatives to participate in the Green Power Program. As a power provider, Tri-State offers renewable resource energy to end-use consumers through a voluntary sign-up program with its member cooperatives, in addition to buying renewable resources for its own energy mix. Tri-State fulfills these subscriptions from purchases on the open market through a system of green tags that are derived from energy produced by wind, solar, and small hydroelectric and biomass projects.

Since the program's inception, Tri-State charged a nominal monthly premium on every 100 kilowatt-hour block per month of green power. Beginning in 2008, the premium was greatly reduced to begin tracking actual renewable energy credits market conditions. This voluntary program will continue for those who wish to purchase power generated from renewable sources.

By contacting EEA, homeowners and businesses can buy green power at an additional, minimal monthly fee and support the continued development of renewable energy resources. Call 970-565-4444 or 800-709-3726 to sign up for the Green Power Program or add the program online under Account/Start or Change Account. You choose the number of blocks based on your actual average monthly usage. This amount is then reflected on your electric bill as an additional line item.

The current rate for each 100 kWh block purchased by EEA from Tri-State is $0.10.

As an example, let's use the current rate of $0.10 per 100 kWh block and the average monthly electric usage of 672 kWhs for a residential customer on EEA's system. If  you sign up to go 100 percent green, you will pay $0.60 each month for the six green power blocks of 100/kWhs @ $0.10 each (6 x $0.10 = $0.60).

In 2011, EEA constructed the Solar Assist Cooperative Garden. This environmentally friendly program provides members an opportunity to lease a photovoltaic panel as an alternative when their homes are not properly sited for solar installations, if they are renting, or simply can't afford a solar installation. 

The Solar Assist Cooperative Garden consists of twenty-four 225-watt panels located on EEA's property in Cortez. Members began leasing the solar panels for a 20-year period, which is prorated each subsequent year.

The system's estimated production output is 8,500 kWhs per year which is allocated at $0.11 per kWh. Participants receive a credit on their electric account each month for their portion of the generated power. It is anticipated that one 225 watt panel will produce approximately $39 per year in electricity credits.

One of the major advantages of the program is that EEA maintains the solar garden and the participant only pays for the cost of the panel.