Wringing juice from irrigation canals — Mountain Town News

October 15, 2014
South Canal hydroelectric site

South Canal hydroelectric site

From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

In 1909, President William Howard Taft arrived in Montrose on a train to dedicate one of the federal government’s first reclamation projects. With aid of federal funds, a 5.8-mile tunnel was bored from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River to divert water onto the fertile fields of the Uncompahgre Valley.

Even when the portly president (he weighed 340 pounds and once overflowed a bathtub), there was talk in Montrose about harnessing the power of fast-moving water to produce electricity. Emerging from the Bureau of Reclamation’s tunnel from April through October, the time of irrigation, the water churns with great power as it tumbles toward the 80,000 acres of irrigation around the towns of Montrose and Delta.

At long last, electrical production began last year. The first small hydroelectric plant began generation in June 2013 and the second two months later. Both were developed by Delta-Montrose Electrical Association. Together, the two units can produce 7.5 megawatts of electricity.

Two more are now being built, both by a private company called Shavano Falls Hydro. They are expected to be completed in spring of 2015 and produce a maximum 7.6 megawatts.

The four units altogether will produce 15.1 megawatts.

Delta-Montrose will sell the power to co-op members, while Shavano will sell the power to Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. Among others, MEAN sells energy to the municipalities of Delta and Aspen.

Jim Heneghan, renewable electricity engineer for Delta-Montrose, says the return on investment is 11 years. However, a better way of calculating the investment may be that it produces electricity for 3 cents per kilowatt hour more cheaply than the power delivered by wholesale supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

Both these figures are without a rate increase in the wholesale price. Coal-fired electricity has been rising rapidly in cost, however. The water will be essentially free and the turbines should last at least 50 years before they need to be retooled.

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.

Telluride election forum, October 13

October 14, 2014

Moab tailings cleanup update: Around half the pile has been moved #ColoradoRiver

October 13, 2014

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Nearly half of what had been a 16 million-ton pile of uranium mill tailings sitting on the north side of the Colorado River near Moab, Utah, is gone, having been hauled some 30 miles to the north, well away from the river. About 7.2 million tons of tailings that date to Cold War efforts to refine uranium were taken to Crescent Junction to be buried in a disposal cell below the Book Cliffs (spelled with two words in Utah).

“It’s amazing to think about where we were 10 years ago,” when planning for the cleanup got underway, said Don Metzler, federal project director for the cleanup.

“I drove by there the other day and, boy, it’s really noticeable,” Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison said of the shrinking mill-tailings pile.

“The townspeople are really happy about seeing that pile go away.”

Moab residents have long wanted the pile removed, and their hopes were echoed by downstream states that depend on the Colorado for water.

The tailings are shipped by rail from the site to Crescent Junction, where they’re removed for burial in the cell. Estimates about the magnitude of such projects frequently run low, but so far the original estimate of 16 million tons has proven pretty accurate, Metzler said.

“In the end, it might be a little larger,” but the disposal cell should be easily able to contain the tailings, Metzler said.

So far, progress on the pile has been on budget and on time, Metzler said, noting that there were no lost-time accidents or injuries on the project in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

The Department of Energy is requesting $35.8 million for the project in 2015 and the estimated total cost is in a range of $928 million to $936 million.

The project employs 136 people, 30 of them Mesa County residents.

Cleanup is to be complete by 2025.

Officials in Moab and Grand County are now looking ahead to what will come next on the 480-acre site. About 130 acres were covered by the pile.

Ideas include additional parking for Arches National Park, a consolidated federal office structure, a park and bike trails, or an outdoor amphitheater, Sakrison said.

Whatever goes on the site, said Sakrison, “It’s not going to be industrial.”

More nuclear coverage here.

A satellite finds a potent hot spot of global-warming methane over Colorado’s Four Corners

October 10, 2014

Roan Plateau: Settlement on the horizon?

October 8, 2014

Aspen aims for all hydro and wind by 2023 — The Aspen Times

October 7, 2014
Ridgway Reservoir during winter

Ridgway Reservoir during winter

From The Aspen Times (Karl Herchenroeder):

Aspen officials hope to supply municipal operations entirely with hydroelectric and wind energy by 2023, projections from the city’s renewable energy manager show.

But the success of that lofty projection — along with the city’s 100 percent renewable-energy goal in 2015 — will be based largely on current negotiations with its energy provider, Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska.

Doubling the hydro supply at Ridgway Reservoir and phasing out landfill-gas purchases are two things Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska will have to approve for Aspen to meet 2023 projections, but Aspen’s Renewable Energy Manager Will Dolan is confident he can reach agreement on both.

“I think there’s a way to do it,” Dolan said Monday. “I think they’ve voiced an interest in additional Ridgway energy, and they’ve also voiced a willingness to taper off the landfill-gas energy if we needed to.”[...]

Dolan said the city will look to phase out landfill gas in 2023, when Aspen has the option to double its output at Ridgway, boosting supply from 9,800 megawatt hours to about 19,000 megawatt hours. As negotiations proceed, Dolan said it will be key to find some flexibility.

“We don’t want to hem any future councils in,” he said. “As highly desirable resources like Ridgway become available, we want to be able to take advantage of those.”[...]

According to Dolan, Aspen’s energy portfolio is currently made up of 49 percent hydro, 28 percent wind, 20 percent coal/gas and 2 percent nuclear. Dolan’s 2015 projections show 47 percent hydro, 41 percent wind, 11 percent coal/gas and 1 percent nuclear. The 8,500 megawatt hours of coal/gas would be offset in 2015 by the purchase of about 9,300 megawatt hours of landfill gas in the Midwest.

City projections for 2023 show 58 percent hydro and 42 percent wind.

Dolan said that if the Aspen City Council elects to revisit the controversial Castle Creek Energy Center, the city could explore the possibility of tapering back its wind supply. To date, the city has invested about $7 million in the estimated $10.5 million project, which was halted in 2012 when 51 percent of Aspen voters shot it down during an advisory election.

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.

Water For Energy: Challenges to Produced Water Reuse

October 4, 2014

Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

HW 32 coversmallThe water required for oil and gas production is a hot topic in Colorado, and nationwide. We took a close look at it last fall in The Energy Issue of Headwaters magazine, exploring Colorado’s energy mix, oil and gas drilling, and the water market for power and energy. And although, compared to state-wide water usage, water for oil and gas only accounts for a small amount (as of 2011, the Division of Water Resources estimated that .47 percent of the state’s water withdrawals went to thermoelectric power generation; .03 percent to coal, natural gas, uranium and solar development; and .04 percent to hydraulic fracturing), in our water-limited state, where the energy industry could continue growing, players are competing for the same water. Reusing water and produced water is improving every year, and could make the water demands of the oil and gas industry less of a concern.  From Caitlin…

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