Energy policy: Hydroelectric

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From the Summit Daily News (Allen Best):

President Obama last week talked about efforts to pass cap-and-trade legislation yet this year, in effect imposing a tax on the burning of fossil fuels.

If that happens, the electricity produced by burning coal will become somewhat more expensive, and the electricity gained from renewable sources will look that much less expensive. In anticipation of such a shifting landscape for prices, local water and energy officials in the Gunnison Basin are investigating whether a 200-foot-high earth dam on the Taylor River built to hold back spring runoff for irrigation purposes later in the season can be retrofitted to generate electricity. “It seems like a waste of a resource not to tap into hydropower there,” said Mike Wells, chief executive of the Gunnison County Electric Association. The Crested Butte News suggests $30,000 in local and state funds are being collected for the feasibility study.

For all its falling water and now its wind farms and solar panels, Colorado still gets the majority of its electricity from burning coal, about 70 percent, and most of the rest from burning natural gas. Utah is even higher, with 85 percent of electricity coming from coal, while Wyoming is at 97 percent.

Well before the alarm about global warming Aspen in the 1990s began looking at ways to prune its purchases of coal-fired electricity. It subsequently paid for installation of a hydroelectric unit in the Ruedi Dam, located about 25 miles from Aspen.

Aspen city officials have also investigated the potential to install a hydroelectric component in the dam that creates Ridgway Reservoir, between Telluride and Montrose. However, the payback on that investment looks less attractive, according to Phil Overeynder, the director of public works.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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