Delta-Montrose Electric adds hydro to renewable mix

Site 1 (shown) of the South Canal Hydroelectric Project began generating up to 4 megawatts recently. A second 3.5-megawatt unit is expected to start generating soon.

Site 1 (shown) of the South Canal Hydroelectric Project began generating up to 4 megawatts recently. A second 3.5-megawatt unit is expected to start generating soon.

Tri-State member co-op Delta-Montrose Electric Association (Montrose, Colo.), recently declared commercial operation of one of two hydroelectric generating units on its long-awaited South Canal Hydroelectric Project that has been in the works for several years. Site 1 has a maximum output of 4 megawatts and site 2, scheduled for start-up next month, will produce up to 3.5 megawatts.

The water that is producing the power is derived from the 100-year-old Gunnison Tunnel. The South Canal mainly serves irrigators in the Uncompahgre Valley, so the plant will only generate power for about seven months of the year.

Jim Heneghan, DMEA’s renewable energy engineer, estimates that the 7.5-megawatt hydroelectric plant will produce enough energy to supply about 3,000 homes during a good water year.

The project was developed as a joint venture between DMEA and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association.

To date, it is the largest local member hydroelectric project within the Tri-State membership. In 2012, Poudre Valley REA (Fort Collins, Colo.) began receiving the output of the 2.6-megawatt Robert V. Trout Hydropower Plant, located at Carter Lake in northwestern Colorado.

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