Basalt plant will power 40 homes |

Basalt plant will power 40 homes

Town of Basalt/Courtesy photos

BASALT – As Aspen engages in civil war over a proposed hydroelectric plant that will tap Maroon and Castle Creeks, Basalt has quietly completed a less controversial micro-hydroelectric plant that will generate power for as many as 40 homes in the town.

The town government teamed with Holy Cross Energy to build a facility that takes advantage of water being piped down from Basalt Mountain to the town’s treatment plant to produce power.

“All we did was plumb this in line,” said Bentley Henderson, Basalt’s public works director, while showing the new turbine and generator used to produce power.

The system will generate roughly 300,000 kilowatt-hours annually, Henderson said. That will power between 30 and 40 houses and reduce greenhouse-gas production by an estimated 500,000 pounds annually, he said.

Councilman Pete McBride, who is nearing the end of a four-year term and isn’t seeking re-election, said he considers the micro-hydroelectric plant one of the town’s biggest accomplishments during his tenure. The project was a partnership that was completed through a creative approach. It produces clean energy from a water source without affecting any streamflow, which he said is important to him.

Basalt’s Green Team, a committee of residents and elected officials, started exploring ideas for renewable energy sources a few years ago. The idea of a micro-hydroelectric plant was raised, and Town Manager Bill Kane was persistent in pursuit, Henderson said.

Holy Cross Energy found a creative way to finance part of the project. It prepaid $300,000 for 6 million kilowatt hours of power, said Del Worley, CEO of the utility. The town also received $119,025 in federal stimulus funds via a grant passed through the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office.

The hydroelectric plant itself cost $275,000. The town also had to upgrade its raw water lines. It spent $139,000 on improvements to the Luchsinger Spring water line and $254,000 for Basalt Spring water-line upgrades. That boosted the cost of the project to $668,000. The town tapped its reserve water funds for its share of the project.

Worley said Basalt officials were “a real pleasure” to work with. The project appealed to the utility company because it provided a small step in reaching the goal to provide 20 percent of its power through renewable sources by 2015, he said.

Basalt’s plant will start producing power this spring.

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