We’re damming up biggest rivers on Earth. Why that is a bad idea. — American Rivers

October 30, 2014


@aguanomics argues federal hydro revenue at $300m per year higher if Hoover Dam electricity was auctioned #ColoradoRiver

October 29, 2014

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.


Global hydropower boom poses biodiversity risks

October 26, 2014

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

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Hoover Dam.

New database to help assess impacts of planned dams

Staff Report

FRISCO — An emergent global hydropower boom will help meet the demand for low-carbon energy, but also poses environmental risks, according to experts compiling a new data base on global hydropower.

The boom is expected to double production of hydropower, but could also reduce  the number of our last remaining large free-flowing rivers by about 20 percent and pose a serious threat to freshwater biodiversity.

A new database has been developed to support decision making on sustainable modes of electricity production. An unprecedented number of dams for electricity production is currently under construction or planned worldwide, mainly in developing countries and emerging economies in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa, that also hold some of the world’s most important sites for freshwater biodiversity. 

View original 228 more words


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


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