Ridgway Hydropower Project Coming Along
by Peter Shelton
Mar 10, 2013 | 1654 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Initial Construction, Permit Process on Schedule

OURAY COUNTY – Hydropower generated at the Ridgway dam could be flowing into the grid by next winter.

On the heels of a new Draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment released Feb. 25 by the Bureau of Reclamation, Mike Berry came before the Ouray Board of County Commissioners Tuesday with an update. Berry is general manager of Tri-County Water Conservancy District, which manages the dam and is building the power-generating facility at the base of the dam. Power wholesaler Tri-State Generation and Transmission will receive its permit to begin construction of the interconnection station and transmission lines when BuRec’s final EA is approved. Berry reported that Tri-State hopes to begin construction in June and finish the substation by November or December of this year.

“We hope to have the small generator up and running for this next winter,” Berry told the board. “It should be ready for Aspen’s PPA [Power Purchase Agreement].” The City of Aspen has contracted to purchase the wintertime output from the dam over 20 years. Tri-State, the wholesale electric supplier for San Miguel Power Association and the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, has agreed to purchase, for 10 years, the higher summertime output.

“Aspen probably won’t see any of those actual electrons,” Berry said. “They will most likely go to [the City of] Delta, which shares the same wholesaler, an outfit with the acronym MEAN out of Nebraska.”

Tri-County WCD is installing two generators, a smaller 800kV one that should run efficiently on the low, 30-60 cubic-feet-per-second flows in winter, and a bigger 7.2 megawatt one to run on summertime release levels. Together, they will provide enough juice to run 2,000 homes and take the equivalent, in greenhouse gases, of more than 4,000 cars off the road. The big generator should be ready for testing by April 2014, Berry said.

The substation’s location, Berry said, will be “south of Hwy 550 and west of Enchanted Mesa near the base of the mesa along an old access road we use to go from the Cow Creek (Pa-Co-Chu-Puk) recreation area to the dam. I believe it is the old Highway 550.”

Berry said two short transmission lines would be built, one to connect to the existing 115kV line running alongside the highway, and another to connect with the generating station.

What about visual impacts? Berry asked, preempting one of the few questions commissioners had. “Maybe if you stick your head way out the window as you drive by . . .” you could see the top of it, Berry said.

Berry said Tri-County’s contractor “has been pouring concrete for a couple of months now, fighting the cold down in that hole,” in preparation for the installation of the first (small) generator.

Referencing the ongoing drought in the region, Berry volunteered, “We probably couldn't have run it this winter. Our releases are so low this winter. We’re trying to save every drop.”

BOCC Chair Mike Fedel said, “This is very exciting. It’s been a long time coming.”


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