Historic Boulder Canyon Hydro to generate power for Tri-State

The refurbished 100-year-old Boulder Creek Hydro roject begins generating electricity for Tri-State this month.

The refurbished 100-year-old Boulder Creek Hydro roject begins generating electricity for Tri-State this month.

A more than 100-year-old hydroelectric plant will soon be producing renewable energy for Tri-State under a five-year power purchase agreement with the City of Boulder that was authorized by the association’s board at its June meeting.

The historic power plant, constructed in 1910 on the Boulder Creek, west of Boulder, was originally designed with two 10-megawatt units generating power from water derived from the Barker Reservoir through a gravity fed pipeline. During the 1950s, the facility also began supplying municipal water to Boulder.

The generating station was owned and operated by Public Service Co. of Colorado until 2001, when it was purchased by the City of Boulder. At that time, the aging facility was nearing the end of its useful life, with only one of the 10-megawatt units still in operation.

In 2009, the project received funding of $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, which allowed for a complete modernization of the plant. The refurbishment, which included replacing the still functioning 10-megawatt unit with a more efficient 5-megawatt turbine/generator and upgrading the transformers, wiring and other operating equipment at the site, was completed in 2012. One 10-megawatt unit remains at the site for historical purposes.

Beginning this month, Tri-State will purchase the energy and environmental attributes from the Boulder Canyon Hydroelectric Project. The hydro plant is expected to yield approximately 11 to 12 gigawatt-hours annually during average water years. The generation from the plant is seasonal with most of the output occurring during the spring and summer months.

“Buying the output of the Boulder Canyon project was an opportunity that made both economic and operational sense to Tri-State and we’re pleased to work with the City of Boulder on this project,” said Susan Hunter, Tri-State’s business development manager for energy resources.

Another renewable resource for Tri-State, Colorado Highlands Wind, is increasing its output from 67 megawatts to 91 megawatts by year-end.

Another renewable resource for Tri-State, Colorado Highlands Wind, is increasing its output from 67 megawatts to 91 megawatts by year-end.

Tri-State’s renewable resource portfolio continues to grow. This year, in addition to adding the output of Boulder’s hydro plant, Tri-State will see a boost before year-end in wind production that it purchases from Colorado Highlands Wind in northeast Colorado — which is currently being expanded from 67 megawatts to 91 megawatts.

The association is also continuing to evaluate projects that were bid into its RFP (request for proposals) in mid-February and expects to further expand its renewable resource portfolio as a result of this competitive bidding process.

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