Delta-Montrose Electric Association hopes to provide 5% of maximum annual demand with small hydroelectric generation plants

A picture named microhydroelectricplant.jpg

From the Telluride Watch (Alan Best):

The co-operative announced [recently] that it will apply to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which administers the Gunnison Tunnel, to develop enough electricity to equal 5 percent of the co-op’s maximum annual demand. As the energy landscape changes, other jurisdictions across Colorado and the West have similarly been re-examining their assets. Small hydro-projects produce far less electricity than most coal-fired power plants, or the giant dams on the Colorado River. But they can do so without generating carbon dioxide emissions and often without increasing other environmental impacts…

The projects, says Joani Matranga, Western Slope representative for the Governor’s Energy Office, would use primarily existing infrastructure and diversions, resulting in minimal environmental impacts. “We’re not building any new dams,” she says. “We think there is still plenty of potential to go after.”[…]

The effort to harness the irrigation canal east of Montrose is part of a broad effort to reverse this decades-old trend toward centralized generation of electricity using fossil fuels. Delta-Montrose Electric Assn. officials say that local power generation produces local jobs, and will insulate electrical customers from rising costs for coal. Those costs will almost certainly rise even more if the federal government adopts a cap-and-trade regime on carbon dioxide emissions, as proposed in the Waxman-Markey bill.

“If this project moves forward through the federal permitting process – and I am confident it will – DMEA’s membership will benefit in many ways, “ said DMEA General Manager Dan McClendon. “Money we would have otherwise exported out of our community for wholesale electricity will be retained in our own community,” he said. He went on to explain that even without grants or other financial assistance, the cost – about $25 million to $30 million – will deliver electricity comparable to the existing wholesale rate…

Unlike some proposals of the past, DMEA has no plans to harness the full power of the falling water. Water from the Gunnison drops 372 feet in as series of churning, roiling steps as the irrigation ditch, called the South Canal, winds around the dun-colored adobe hills east of Montrose. DMEA plans to yoke power from just 120 feet in that fall…

Some small towns – including Hotchkiss and Cortez – have installed small hydro components into their existing water delivery systems, to harness the power of falling water. Aspen does the same, and Hines, that city’s utility engineer, points out that even towns in the Midwest with water towers could tap the power of falling water. Elsewhere in southwestern Colorado, Eric Jacobson has refurbished several small hydro-power plants, such as a 500-kilowatt plant at Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride and a 150-kilowatt plant in Ouray. A variety of other small hydro projects are also scattered across mountainous areas of Colorado.

More coverage from The Telluride Watch (Beverly Corbell):

Both President Teddy Roosevelt and President Howard Taft spoke at Saturday’s 100th anniversary celebration of the opening of the Gunnison Tunnel, but the biggest news of the day came from President Dan McClendon. McClendon, president of the board of directors of the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, announced that his cooperative and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, sponsors of the event, would collaborate to build a hydroelectric plant on South Canal as it leaves the Gunnison Tunnel. “This will bring clean, renewable energy into DMEA’s system and will be one of the largest renewable electric facilities in western Colorado,” McClendon said. “It will keep money in our community and keep millions of dollars here in our area.”

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Leave a Reply