Energy policy — hydroelectric: Aspen city council approves $2.3 million for Castle Creek hydropower project

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From The Aspen Times (Carolyn Sackariason):

The council approved a contract with Denver-based Western Summit Constructors to build a pipeline that will deliver water from Castle Creek via the Thomas Reservoir to the plant, which will be located below the Castle Creek bridge.

The city plans to circumvent a full-blown environmental analysis and instead apply to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for what’s called a “conduit exemption” to build the hydroelectric plant once the pipeline is under construction. Officials say by delivering water from the reservoir to the plant, the city can take advantage of water for hydropower while providing needed flood protection to properties downhill of the Thomas Reservoir, such as the hospital.

The council also approved a $48,400 contract with Miller Ecological Associates to conduct an aquatic biology study to determine the effects of taking water from the creek. The study was requested by the Colorado Division of Wildlife to evaluate the effect of stream-flow changes between the point of diversion and the point of return in the creek…

Several people said they were concerned about a decreased flow in Castle and Maroon creeks because water will be drained out of both to generate power. Under an agreement with the state, the city of Aspen would never go below 12 cfs in Castle Creek and 14 cfs in Maroon Creek…

If approved, the water would travel down a 42-inch pipe, supplying the hydro plant with approximately 25 cubic feet per second (cfs) coming from Castle Creek and 60 cfs out of Maroon Creek. The city diverts water from both creeks for the primary purpose of supplying municipal water and maintains the in-stream flow of 12 and 14 cfs. The third priority would be for hydroelectricity, but if there isn’t enough water available in a dry year or during certain times of the year, it wouldn’t be diverted, officials have said. The project would utilize existing water rights, head gates and water storage of the original Castle Creek hydroelectric plant, which met all of Aspen’s electric power needs from 1892 through 1958, when the plant was decommissioned…

The electricity would be placed on the city’s grid and taken up to the water treatment campus to power those facilities, and to potentially produce hydrogen for hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen vehicles. When completed, the 1.05 mega-watt facility is expected to increase electric production by 5.5 million kilowatt hours annually. That power production will prevent more than 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year, officials said. It would generate renewable energy for the city and increase its supplies by 8 percent over its current level of about 75 percent. City officials say that switching from primarily coal-fired energy purchases to hydroelectric power production would represent a 0.6 percent community-wide reduction in carbon emissions based on a 2004 greenhouse gas emission inventory.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

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