New hydropower plant installed at Granby Dam
June 9, 2016
The role of water is never far from the forefront of discussions and debates in the high country. Colorado is often called the mother of rivers for the four major waterways that mark their starting points in the alpine meadows of the Rockies. Places like Grand County could be called nurseries, where very small and fragile streams are grown and developed into full-scale rivers.
The rivers of Colorado fill vast networks of reservoirs. The dams that make those reservoirs possible also offer unique opportunities for renewable power production. All along the Colorado-Big Thompson Project (C-BTP), which stretches from Green Mountain Reservoir south of Kremmling through Grand County to the eastern plains of Colorado, there are half a dozen hydropower plants that utilize the flow of the Colorado River and other rivers to produce electricity.
Last Friday morning Northern Water held a dedication ceremony for a new hydropower plant on the Colorado River at the base of Granby Dam. The Granby Hydropower Plant began operating and producing power in May this year and the dedication on Friday was a ceremonial opportunity to present the completed plant to community members and local officials.
Representatives of Northern Water, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, Mountain Parks Electric, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Grand County Government spoke during the dedication ceremony, highlighting the efforts expelled to bring the plant to fruition and the benefits expected to accrue to the region.
The plant consists of two 600 kilowatt Francis turbines which harness water flows to create power. The plant can produce 5 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy per year in the 1,850 square foot facility built to house the turbines.
The plant is connected to the Granby Reservoir Dam’s main outlet and sits on the banks of the Colorado River. The flow rate through the power plant is anywhere from 20 to 75 cubic feet per second.
The capital costs associated with the project totaled $5.7 million including $5.1 million in loans received from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Construction on the plant began in the spring of 2015 and was completed last month.
Officials from Northern Water expect the Granby Hydropower Plant to produce roughly $350,000 in annual gross revenue. In 2015 Mountain Parks Electric agreed to purchase the Granby Hydropower Plant’s projected power output. While speaking at the dedication ceremony Mountain Parks Electric General Manager Tom Sifers estimated the new plant will produce enough power to cover the needs of roughly 370 Mountain Parks customers.
The Granby Hydropower Plant is one of two hydropower plants owned and operated by Northern Water on the C-BTP, the other being the Robert V. Trout Hydropower Plant at Carter Lake Reservoir on the eastern side of the continental divide.
The two hydropower plants are the only two projects to receive an official Lease of Power Privilege approval from the Federal Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) along the federally owned C-BTP. The BOR owns and operates six hydropower plants along the C-BTP, including one at the outlet of Green Mountain Reservoir where the Blue River runs south towards Summit County.
Among the various speakers at the dedication ceremony last Friday was Northern Water’s Board of Directors President Mike Applegate.
“It (the Granby Hydropower Plant) has been a great project in the sense that we have worked with many entities in Grand County… and everybody did pull together and make this project happen,” Applegate said. “We want to make things happen. This is a water project that is a resource for the entire state. It provides a lot of benefits over here on the west slope as well as the east slope. We are stewards of that project and it is our job to take very good care of what our forefathers left for us. It is our duty.”
Speaking on behalf of Grand County Government was County Commissioner Merrit Linke. Linke highlighted the new hydropower plant as an example of the ongoing collaboration recently developed between Northern Water and the County regarding water related issues and how important such efforts are for everyone affected.
“It really is about a spirit of collaboration and cooperation,” Linke said. “Without any of those parties this whole thing would have stopped. Even if just one would have said, ‘no, we don’t like that’, it would not have gone through. I think that would have been a tragic mistake to not see that mutual benefit for the future. I really truly think, and I have said it before, this is the future. We need to learn to work together on things.”