2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1083 — Hydroelectricity and Pumped Hydro

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

[State Rep. Keith Swerdfeger’s, (R-Pueblo West)] bill would give the Public Utilities Commission authority to treat hydroelectric as a source of renewable energy and allow developers of hydroelectricity to sell their product to utility companies. The [House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee] unanimously supported the bill…

Hydroelectric generation sites such as the proposed South Slope project create energy through an exchange of water between an elevated lake and a lower reservoir. They are capable of generating energy quickly and storing energy from sources like wind, solar and traditional power plants when they produce a greater load than is necessary. University of Colorado engineering professor Frank Barnes testified that hydroelectric storage and generation can greatly benefit utilities by capturing the excess energy they produce and releasing it at times when productivity is low…

Only two mechanisms for storing surplus energy exist, according to Barnes: compressed air and pumped hydro. Just two compressed-air energy storage sites exist, one in Alabama and one in Germany. In America alone, more than 120 hydro-pump plants exist, and the technology to operate them has been patented since 1917…

“You’ve got a large capital cost to get started, even though this turns out to be the cheapest way to store energy over the long haul,” Barnes said. It sometimes takes 20 years or more to reap the financial benefits of the initial investment. “Venture capitalists that want their money back within five years, this isn’t where they are going to invest it,” Barnes said, making the South Slope project unique in that a suitor already is in place…

Swerdfeger assuaged concerns from some committee members that hydro projects would injure downstream senior water-rights holders. He said projects such as South Slope would be one-time fills fed by negotiated water rights, and that water would be reused. The only water losses, he said, would be to evaporation and seepage. An amendment was added to the bill Monday that guards against water diversion under the guise of hydroelectricity production.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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