@COWaterCongress accepting nominations for 2019 Aspinall Award

A bust of Wayne Aspinall, in Palisade, facing the Colorado River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Meg Meyer):

The Colorado Water Congress is currently accepting nominations for the 2019 Aspinall Award to be awarded at the 2019 Annual Convention in January. All nominations must be received by July 1, 2018.

The Colorado Water Congress presents the prestigious Wayne N. Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” Award annually to an individual Coloradan who has long demonstrated courage, dedication, knowledge and strong leadership in the development, protection and preservation of Colorado water.

Honorees reflect those attributes so clearly possessed by the award’s namesake, Wayne N. Aspinall. The late Mr. Aspinall, a lawyer and former longtime member of the U. S. House of Representatives, remains one of the most influential water leaders in Colorado history.

Please follow this link https://www.cowatercongress.org/aspinall-award.html [coloradowatercongresscoassoc.wliinc15.com] to find the nomination form and return to Meg Meyer.

Shoshone plant water rights in Glenwood Canyon eyed by Colorado River District — @AspenJournalism

Penstock blowout at Shoshone hydro plant. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett) via The Aspen Times:

The Colorado River District is renewing its efforts at preserving a major Western Slope water right: the Shoshone hydropower plant.

But this time around, under the new leadership of general manager Andy Mueller, the district’s discussions with plant owner Xcel Energy are focusing on finding a way to maintain the water right instead of purchasing outright the plant or associated water rights.

The Shoshone plant is located on the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon, upstream of Glenwood Springs and the popular Shoshone boating stretch of the river.

The plant began operating in 1909, and has a senior water right dating to 1902. That water right keeps 1,250 cubic feet per second flowing down the Colorado River. That means upstream junior water rights holders must leave enough water in the river for Shoshone to receive its full decreed amount. It also means that full amount becomes available for downstream users.

Some Western Slope water managers fear that if Xcel were to sell the plant or discontinue generating power at the site, the guaranteed 1,250 cfs could be lost. It would be a major blow for Western Slope water users.

At the Colorado River Basin Roundtable’s meeting in May in Glenwood Springs, Colorado River District general counsel Peter Fleming delivered a history of the Shoshone hydropower plant and an update on the efforts of the river district to preserve the flows associated with the plant.

“Simply by virtue of its very senior priority and large size, it is the controlling water right on the river upstream of Glenwood Springs,” Fleming said.

He said river district officials have met with Xcel officials about five times over the past few months to talk about ways to preserve the Shoshone water right for the Western Slope, and he anticipates additional meetings in the future.

In the past, conversations have centered around the Colorado River District potentially purchasing the hydro plant from Xcel. But those talks have shifted to ways of preserving the flow without ownership changing hands.

“A lot of it is explaining to [Xcel] why this is an important issue for the West Slope and that we are not out to interfere with their business,” Fleming said. “We don’t have any interest in operating a power plant. But maybe there’s a win-win concept out there to achieve the permanency of the Shoshone flows.”

Michelle Aguayo, Colorado media relations representative for Xcel, said in a statement the company has begun discussions with the river district, 20 West Slope water providers, and government entities about the possibility of achieving permanent management of the flow of the Colorado River so that it mimics current and historic flows.

“Although Xcel Energy is willing to talk with parties that express interest, Xcel Energy wants to reiterate that this does not signal any desire or commitment to transfer or sell any rights related to the company’s assets,” the statement reads.

Mueller said he does not view Xcel’s statement as a closing of the door and remains optimistic a solution can be found.

The Minneapolis-based energy company provides electricity and natural gas to customers in eight states, including 1.5 million people in Colorado.

Preserving flows of the Shoshone plant has long been priority for Western Slope water managers and the Colorado River District. In 2007, Xcel and Denver Water reached an agreement that during drought conditions, Xcel would “relax” Shoshone’s call on the river down to 704 cfs, cutting it roughly in half. The agreement allows Denver Water to fill its reservoirs earlier, which made some Western Slope water managers nervous.

Then came the 2012 Shoshone Outage Protocol, a 40-year agreement between Front Range and Western Slope water managers. It says that when the Shoshone plant is shut down for repairs, maintenance, or other reasons, the flows must still be maintained.

Colorado River Basin Roundtable member Chuck Ogilby said the Colorado River District should have played a bigger role in negotiating these deals and that the organization has not taken a strong enough lead in protecting the Shoshone flows.

Ogilby would like to see a group of Western Slope water managers attend an Xcel board meeting to lobby for protection of the Shoshone flows.

“It’s maddening to me,” Ogilby said. “They have missed the boat on this entire activity. … Now here we are trying to make up for their lack of engagement. We all pay taxes to the river district and this is the most important thing they can do and they are dragging their feet.”

That may be changing under the new leadership of Mueller, who took over in December.

“I was specifically requested by the board to lead that charge on behalf of the district, so I think yes, the discussions are reinvigorated and we feel reasonably optimistic about it,” Mueller said. “And we appreciate the willingness of Xcel to sit down and have discussions with us.”

Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times on the coverage of rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

Suddenly, solar energy plus storage is giving conventional fuels a run for their money —

As the owners of the largest coal-burning power plant in the West map out the details of closing in the next two years, the Navajo Nation has taken its next step in its energy development by starting operations at a new 27-megawatt solar farm not far from the source of the coal that fuels Navajo Generating Station. The Kayenta solar project, owned by the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and operated by First solar, is the first large-scale solar energy facility on the reservation. The electricity is sold to the Salt River Project for distribution. The project’s 120,000 photovoltaic panels sit on 200 acres and are mounted on single-axis trackers that follow the movement of the sun. It provides enough electricity to power approximately 7,700 households. The tribe entered a lease agreement with NTUA in 2015 for the location, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in April 2016, followed by six months of construction that started last September. The $60 million facility was built using a construction loan from the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation.

From ENSIA (Daniel Rothberg):

In December, the state’s largest utility — Xcel Energy — released a short report summarizing the responses to the solicitation it had issued to power suppliers for bids to bring new sources of electricity to the grid. The utility received 430 bids, and 350 of those were for renewable energy projects.

That was remarkable on its own, but what surprised people even more were the bids for projects that added battery storage to the mix. They were cheaper than anyone expected.

“It’s a testament to how quickly the market is changing,” Pierce says.

Changing Attitudes

For years, renewable energy advocates have pushed utilities and regulators to consider adding battery storage to their electrical generation portfolios for flexibility and to reduce intermittency problems that come with solar and wind. Until recently, it wasn’t considered a realistic option: Batteries were expensive and largely untested by utilities, and risk-averse regulators mostly let grid managers ignore them in their bids, statements and long-term planning documents.

Analysts say that’s starting to change as batteries come down in price, as momentum builds behind renewables and as renewables create a natural market for storage. Utilities are increasingly looking at batteries as a tool for leveling out power available over the course of the day and for replacing bulky and expensive peaking power plants that have high costs but only occasionally run at or near full capacity to meet peak demand (in the Southwest, this might be one hot day in the summer when everyone has their air conditioning turned up).

Some see the Xcel Energy report as the most recent case in a growing trend. Xcel’s preliminary analysis from December (a more thorough report is expected to come out June 6) showed that the median bids for battery storage projects coupled with solar and wind generation came in at about US$36 and US$21 per megawatt-hour, respectively. The prices of projects that combined solar or wind with storage, according to the report, were still more expensive than conventional fuels but only marginally more expensive than bids for standalone solar or wind projects. What it shows, analysts say, is that utilities can use batteries without adding huge costs to renewable projects.

Xcel is not alone. Utilities across the country appear to be more receptive to the idea of adding storage to their portfolios. Tucson Electric Power’s decision to build a solar-plus-storage project for US$45 per megawatt-hour generated dozens of headlines last year — and that price-point is higher than the Xcel median. Earlier this year, NV Energy, an affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, announced it would include battery storage in its bidding process for the first time. Around the same time, California regulators pushed a utility to procure energy storage as a replacement to natural gas. A few months later, Florida Light & Power announced a project adding storage to an existing solar plant.

Kate McGinnis, the Western U.S. market director for Fluence Energy, a global battery storage provider that Siemens and AES Corporation launched last year, says it’s clear that attitudes toward storage are changing. “We’re seeing utilities talk directly to us to learn more about what storage can do and how it can help them to meet the various grid challenges they are experiencing,” McGinnis says.

But she also offered the following warning: The Xcel numbers, as medians, reveal difficulties in comparing different energy storage projects. Batteries are diverse and complex. Different batteries have different capacities — some might be able to hold enough energy so they could discharge power over five hours. Others might be able to store enough for 10 hours…

Boosting Efficiency, Replacing Gas

A big driver of the shift in energy storage is cost, says Yayoi Sekine, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. She notes that the price of lithium-ion batteries has dropped from about $1,000 per kilowatt-hour in 2010 to about $209 per kWh in 2017. The decreases came as more batteries were produced at a more efficient scale to accommodate a growing electric vehicle market.

“That’s a massive decrease in prices over not that long of a period,” she says.

Utilities, Sekine says, see an opportunity to use storage to make the grid more efficient. Adding more solar to the grid has created big issues for how grid operators manage a utility’s generation portfolio, the biggest of which is commonly known as the “duck curve” (the name comes from the a graph of net load on the grid; it forms what looks like the outline of a duck). It occurs when so much solar power is produced during the day that it creates a slew of issues for meeting demand at night. The thinking is that if some of that solar power were stored in a battery, it could be dispatched with more flexibility and deployed more gradually to better balance supply and demand.

Others want to take storage and solar a step further. They believe that, as prices become more competitive, the two together can obviate the need for some natural gas plants. According to a new report from Greentech Media, solar and storage together are expected to compete directly with natural gas peakers — plants built to meet peak electricity demand — by 2022.

“That is an application where we think [battery] storage can be highly competitive,” says Ravi Manghani, an industry analyst who directs Greentech Media’s energy storage research.

The industry still faces some headwinds. Analysts say costs need to decrease even more for batteries plus renewables to compete head-on with most conventional fuels. David Hart, a professor at George Mason University and a co-author on a recent working paper on energy storage, says that more research and development is necessary. He proposes that government mechanisms encourage innovation, especially research in battery types other than lithium-ion.

Another challenge, Hart says, is the fact that electricity prices vary based on time and location.

Berthoud: #Conservation Gardens Fair at @NorthernWater, June 9, 2018

From the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District via The Loveland Reporter Herald:

Residents can learn about landscaping that requires less water in Colorado’s semiarid climate during a Conservation Gardens Fair at Northern Water on Saturday.

The free event, held June 9, will feature demonstrations and seminars on lawn and garden practices that are ideal for Colorado’s climate. Residents also can explore Northern Water’s conservation gardens, which showcase hundreds of plants and turf grasses that flourish in this region.

“Northern Water’s staff collectively has decades of experience in water-efficient landscaping and best practices for our climate, and we want to share that knowledge with the public,” Lyndsey Lucia, Conservation Gardens public outreach coordinator, said in a press release. “We encourage anyone who’s interested to join us at this event, as the wide variety of information provided at the Conservation Gardens Fair will be valuable for homeowners, businesses and green industry professionals alike.”

Joining Northern Water’s experts are representatives from Colorado State University’s Extension Office and master gardeners program, Colorado Vista Landscape Design, EWING Irrigation, Gardens on Spring Creek, Green Hills Sod Farm, Loveland Youth Gardeners, Plant Select and Turf Master.

Activities for children also are on tap at the Conservation Gardens Fair, the first 400 people will receive a free perennial and a gift from the prize wheel, and there will be a limited number of free sandwiches during the lunch hour, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The event is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 9 at Northern Water’s headquarters, 220 Water Ave., in Berthoud. More information on the fair, including a list of how-to seminars and activities, is availalbe at http://northernwater.org.