Bringing Communities Together Through Connection and Power

Meeting the individual and collective needs of a diverse membership is a challenge, but Trico Electric Cooperative is committed to providing cost-effective and sustainable energy solutions for its varying member-owners.

Trico serves over 46,000 economically and geographically diverse members in the surrounding areas of Tucson, Arizona. Part of its service territory is dense, with 35 electric meters per mile—while others have less than one meter per mile. A portion of its territory is located in a desert, but it also provides electricity to snowy areas like Mount Lemmon Ski Resort.

We are excited to continue our investment into cleaner energy and we could not complete these projects without trusted financial partners like CoBank.

“We believe that connection brings us together as a community, and we are working to bring a wide range of power solutions to our members,” said Brian Heithoff, CEO and general manager of Trico. “A strong component of our membership is interested in more sustainable energy, while others are struggling to pay their energy bills. We are here to support our members and their unique needs, no matter what.”

By 2032, Trico has set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% and is making strides to incorporate more renewables into its portfolio, focusing on battery, solar and natural gas solutions.

To push this initiative forward, Trico opened Chirreon Solar and Battery Storage facility in 2022, which has the capacity to produce more than 30,000 megawatt-hours of energy per year—powering the equivalent of 3,000 residential homes.

The following year, the co-op added an additional battery energy storage system to its existing Avion Solar facility, which also has the energy output of over 30,000 megawatts per year.

CoBank played an integral role in financing both projects, providing a $10 million line of credit to the co-op. Trico also utilized leasing opportunities through CoBank’s Farm Credit Leasing for both the solar and battery facilities.

“We are excited to continue our investment into cleaner energy and we could not complete these projects without trusted financial partners like CoBank,” Heithoff said. “They have such an impressive responsiveness to meet our needs—jumping on a plane to facilitate a face-to-face discussion and solutions. That goes a long way.”

Trico puts community first, and with its new commitment to renewable energy, still recognizes the financial limitations of some of its members. The co-op is working on an opt-in model for battery and solar to accommodate its members’ diverse needs.

“Trico has a growth mindset. We want to grow our number of members and kilowatt-hour sales and see our employees grow. We also want to grow alongside our community—providing grants, donations and scholarships. Together, we are more powerful,” Heithoff said.

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2023 Annual Report.