To go hydro is to go green |

To go hydro is to go green

Dear Editor:

Hydroelectric power is a clean and renewable source of energy for Aspen. Some opinions expressed in our local papers give the impression that our mountain streams will be forever denigrated and compromised by using the natural energy of the stream in generating clean and renewable non-polluting electric power for the city of Aspen. Nothing could be farther from the truth!

Opponents paint a picture of large dams impounding and devastating the natural flow of the stream and devoid of any aquatic life. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Over a century ago, Aspen was self-reliant mining community about to enter a period of “quiet times.” But the turbines on Castle Creek continued to generate non-polluting electric power into the mid-twentieth century until a poor decision was made in 1958 to shut down the historic power house built in 1892 and scrap the turbines in 1952. But the building still stands and the rivers still flow.

A half century has gone by since Aspen has generated power from Castle Creek. Fifty years gone, at an average power generation of 500 kilowatt hours/day = 12 megawatt/days x 365 days/year = 4,380 megawatts/year x 50 years = 220,000 megawatts of clean electric energy not generated for Aspen homes. This clean, electric energy represents significant tons of CO2 that might not have been emitted into the atmosphere had Aspen kept the old power plant in operation. Has Aspen contributed to global warming? Yes!

Given the concerns of future radioactive pollution from possible nuclear plant disasters and global warming from the C02 emissions of coal-fired steam plants, the environmental community will continue to oppose more of these type of power plants. So the question remains: Wow do we provide for Aspen’s future energy needs? I see little choice but to develop clean and renewable hydroelectric power. It can be done without degrading stream flows on either Castle or Maroon creeks.

Colorado water law is predicated on the concept “first in use first in right” and “use it or lose it.” Do we want to lose our right to generate clean energy? I would think our choice should be to work together to reduce our carbon footprint and help save the planet. Let’s work together to keep Aspen “green.” Once Aspen mined silver and hauled skiers with ski lifts powered by hydroelectric energy. Now coal provides the power for the energy consuming lights of the X Games with multiple ski lifts and lodges using fossil energy to keep our guests warm in cozy rooms on a ski vacation.

Yes! Our lifestyle consumes energy. We must all do our part to conserve energy and preserve the environment. I believe the restoration of Aspen’s hydroelectric resources is a step in the right direction towards that goal.

Jim Markalunas


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