Aspen to discuss purchase of hydropower from Ridgway |

Aspen to discuss purchase of hydropower from Ridgway

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – As the city of Aspen moves ahead with plans to build a power-generation facility on Castle Creek, it also is pursuing the idea of purchasing hydroelectric power from a proposed plant in Ridgway, about 20 miles south of Montrose.

Should both projects be realized, the city’s electricity utility would further lessen its dependence on coal-fired power and increase its reliance on renewable energy sources, Mayor Mick Ireland said. Castle Creek’s power would serve the city primarily during summer months in periods of peak runoff, while the Ridgway plant would provide electricity during fall and winter when Castle Creek’s streamflows are lower, he said.

In 1987, the Tri County Water Conservancy District, which serves Delta, Montrose and Ouray counties in western Colorado, completed the Ridgway Dam and Reservoir project with future hydropower development in mind. The district supplies water for irrigation and other purposes south of the reservoir.

“Nearly a decade ago, the city of Aspen began discussions with (the district) as part of our long-term electric energy management strategies,” wrote Phil Overeynder, city special projects engineer, in a memorandum to the council. “This developed into the working relationship we share today with (the district) and the opportunity before us.”

The memo says that 10 years ago the city of Aspen partnered with the Montrose-based district to complete hydropower feasibility studies at Ridgway Reservoir and has since invested in two updates to the studies.

“(The district) has obtained ‘lease of power privilege’ from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – the only license required to construct and operate the proposed facility,” the memo states. “(The district) has also secured three firm price bids for installation of a power plant, which includes two turbines and generators.”

Overeynder went on to write that financing is already in place for construction of the plant, and the selection of a builder this year could lead to power production sometime in 2015.

The Ridgway electricity, along with energy from the proposed Castle Creek plant and previous purchases of wind-generated power, are the “most effective method” to achieve the city’s renewable-energy goals and would elevate the municipal utility’s overall renewable-energy portfolio to 95 percent, according to the memo.

The city’s Canary Initiative, crafted in 2005, aims to achieve 100 percent renewable energy for the city’s power utility by 2015.

“The proposed purchase output from the Ridgway project fits Aspen’s unique demand curve and existing portfolio extremely well,” Overeynder wrote. “Our peak energy demands occur during the winter months, which is when Ridgway energy purchases will exclusively occur. Also, (Castle Creek) energy output will – if completed – peak during the summer months, making these projects complementary.”

Buying additional wind energy, often suggested by some in the community as an alternative to hydroelectric power, would prove more expensive and lack the long-term cost effectiveness of the Ridgway plant, the memo says.

Ridgway is neither a replacement nor an alternative to the Castle Creek Energy Center, Overeynder wrote.

A discussion of a potential agreement on the purchase of Ridgway hydropower is planned for the council’s Tuesday work session, which begins at 4:30 p.m. in the basement of Aspen City Hall.

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