Private Developer Working With DEMA, UVWUA to Sell Power Out of Area
MONTROSE — A rise in alternative energy demand has led to a fourth hydroelectric power facility now in the planning stages for the South Canal, east of Montrose.
The Delta-Montrose Electrical Association currently operates two facilities, at Drop 1 and Drop 3, with plans for a facility on Drop 2.
Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released its draft environmental assessment for yet another proposed hydropower project, at Drop 4. Drops 1 and 3 is currently producing approximately 6.5 megawatts of power this summer, according to James Heneghan, renewable energy engineer for DMEA.
The proposed Drop 4 location, 0.8 miles downstream from the existing Drop 3 hydropower plant that was completed last year, drops approximately 71 ft. from Drop 3 to Drop 4. With a fourth facility, water would be diverted into a penstock and through the hydropower plant and returned to the canal to meet mounting irrigation delivery demands downstream.
The project also includes 1.27 miles of new overhead interconnection line across federal Bureau of Land Management and Reclamation lands.
“The purpose of the Drop 4 Hydropower Project is to develop a 4.8 megawatt (MW) hydropower plant on the South Canal at Drop 4 to provide a clean, renewable energy source that is locally controlled,” according to the bureau’s assessment. “Current federal policy encourages non-federal development of environmentally sustainable hydropower potential of Federal water resource related projects.”
The project, proposed by the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association and a private developer, and would not affect the seasonal delivery of irrigation water.
Like Drops 1 and 3, the power generated at Drop 4 would be handled by DMEA, and transmitted to the Municipal Energy Association of Nebraska.
“The electricity generated by the Project would provide the UVWUA with an additional source of revenue that can be used to defray annual operating expenses and assist in the maintenance and improvement of the Uncompahgre Project,” according to the assessment.
Structural plans for Drop 4 call for a new concrete intake canal connecting to an intake structure; a metal bar trash screen would remove debris as the water is forced into a 10-ft. pipe and flushed 1,347-ft. downstream to a new 30-ft. by 40-ft. powerhouse with a power generating turbine. It’s the same method now used in Drops 1 and 3.
An unidentified private developer is working in cooperation with UVWUA to sell the power outside the area, and UVWUA is working to obtain state and federal grants to help defray costs. Construction is expected to take 10 months, and cost approximately $7 million. (Calls to the UVWUA were not returned as of press time.)
When completed, the Drop 4 station could produce about 15,744 megawatt hours of energy per year, with an offset reduction of 32,000,000 to 34,000,000 pounds of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
On May 14 of this year, a Preliminary Lease of Power Privilege was entered into by the UVWUA and the Bureau of Reclamation for the project, putting it on the fast track. “I would say with the promise of privilege being drafted, Drop 4 will be competed before Drop 2,” Heneghan told The Watch this week.
Earlier this year, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1030 into law, in Montrose, directing the Colorado Energy Office to streamline review of new hydroelectric projects in conjunction with federal agencies to decease waiting periods. This legislation allows applications to clear federal and state review in as little as 60 days without infringing upon state environmental regulations.
The law mirrors the federal Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act approved by Congress last year, in conjunction with the Rural Jobs Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and signed by President Barack Obama last August. The law allows farmers and ranchers to add hydroelectric generation to their existing irrigation infrastructure to offset energy consumption (which can account for upwards of 70 percent of seasonal agricultural-use costs, according to Ron Carleton, the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s deputy commissioner.
Amendment 37 to the Colorado Constitution established a Renewable Energy Standard, an initiated state statute approved by voters in 2004, requires Colorado providers of retail electric services serving over 40,000 customers to secure a minimum percentage of electricity from renewable energy sources (such as wind, solar, and hydroelectricity to be 10 percent) by 2020. DMEA is close to achieving that standard, thanks in large part to the two existing South Canal projects. The Drop 2 project could be the next addition of renewable energy to DMEA’s portfolio, Heneghan said.
Wholesalers, like Tri-State Generation have to reach 20 percent by 2020.
The draft environmental assessment is available online at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/envdocs/index.html, or a copy can be received by contacting the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Comments can be submitted to the Terry Stroh at the email address above, or to Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave, Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81501, up until Aug. 8. The bureau will consider all comments received by that date, prior to preparing a final environmental assessment.