President William Howard Taft praises DMEA for developing historic hydroelectric power plantPR Newswire
Power potential recognized in Taft's day now being developed by the Colo. electric co-op
MONTROSE, Colo., June 14, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The President's stimulus package has lead to a new, economical renewable energy development on Colorado's Western Slope. The president spoken of, however, is not Barack Obama; it is William Howard Taft.
Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA), together with the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association (UVWUA), officially broke ground on the South Canal hydroelectric power plant on May 25, 2012, a day that has been envisioned for many years. President Taft (portrayed by actor Dale Liikala) praised DMEA at the co-op's annual business meeting June 14, 2012 realizing the vision seen more than a century before.
"I am delighted that DMEA is building on the American 'can do' spirit to create a better future," said Taft.
The fast flowing water in the South Canal comes through the Gunnison Tunnel, dug more than 100 years ago. President William Howard Taft, our nation's 27th president came to Montrose on September 23, 1909, to celebrate the opening of the 5.8 mile Gunnison Tunnel, an engineering marvel and the longest irrigation tunnel in the world at the time. The history of the project and recent construction activity is detailed in the "Journal of American Power" found on DMEA's website at http://www.dmea.com/images/stories/PDF/SouthCanalBigSplash(Web).pdf.
Although irrigation for agriculture was the primary motivation behind the construction of the Gunnison Tunnel, the potential to generate electricity resulting from the project was noted by the media of the day. A reporter from the New York Times who covered President Taft's opening of the Gunnison Tunnel wrote on August 22, 1909:
"The water, after it leaves the tunnel, will have 372 feet fall, which can be used to generate electric power sufficient to light every town and every farmhouse in the Uncompahgre Valley and provide power for all kinds of commercial and industrial purposes."
Demand for electricity in the area has grown tremendously since 1909, but the 7 megawatts (MW) of capacity from the first two sites being developed in the South Canal hydroelectric project is still significant. DMEA's overall system peak is roughly 110 MW, so the South Canal hydroelectric facility's capacity would be about five percent of DMEA's demand--much more than a drop in the bucket for an electric distribution co-op DMEA's size.
The two power houses that comprise the South Canal Hydro project will generate an estimated 27,000,000 kilowatt hours (kWh's) of electricity, roughly equivalent to the power used by 3,000 homes in DMEA's service territory. Electricity will be produced uniquely during the irrigation season to match the existing flow of water.
Construction of the project is expected to generate 60 new jobs-- primarily in construction--with economic multiplier effects adding to the benefits. DMEA's member-owners will also soon have part of their wholesale power cost locked in for the long term, according to Dan McClendon, DMEA's general manager.
"After the project is completed in summer 2013, a great deal of money we would have otherwise exported out of our community for wholesale electricity will be retained in our own community. This is one of the most exciting developments in the history of our co-op."
Many elected officials support and praise the project, including U.S. Senator Mark Udall who stated:
"Renewable energy and energy efficiency protect our nation's security and strengthen our economy. I congratulate the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association and DMEA for their hard work developing the South Canal hydroelectric project. It offers a very economical source of clean, renewable energy and will help create jobs. I would also like to commend the federal agencies that facilitated this cost-effective investment by the private sector, including the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management and the Western Area Power Administration. It's reassuring to see the public and private sectors working toward the common goals of sound stewardship of our natural resources and benefitting our state's and nation's environment, economy and future."
U.S. Senator Michael Bennet added his congratulations on the project's recent ground-breaking held on May 25, 2012:
"The Delta Montrose Electric Association and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association have worked long and hard to create a hydroelectric facility that will help prepare the region and the state to meet our energy needs. This emissions-free facility is an example of Colorado's clean energy leadership and of how innovative technologies and partnerships like this can create energy solutions that not only help protect our environment and reduce energy costs, but also create jobs and help boost our economy. Congratulations to all involved on today's milestone. I look forward to seeing the plant in action for the Delta-Montrose communities."
U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton, whose district encompasses Montrose and Delta counties, has been working to expedite small hydro projects. Congressman Tipton noted:
"Colorado is fortunate to have abundant opportunities—such as the South Canal Hydroelectric project—to produce clean, renewable hydropower, sending power directly to the grid and creating needed rural jobs in the process. America's energy needs are best met with a true all-of-the-above domestic energy approach, which includes hydropower. This approach will ensure a supply of reliable, secure and low cost energy for our country, and will jumpstart economic recovery by providing energy certainty for American families and small businesses, and getting Americans back to work. My sincere congratulations to all involved with this project to generate clean hydropower for the people of Delta and Montrose."
State leaders in Colorado are also praising the environmental and economic benefits expected from the project. Mike King, executive director of the Colo. Department of Natural Resources, stated:
"This project represents the best of Colorado: collaboration, innovation and economic diversification. The South Canal hydropower project brought together water users and power providers to create jobs, bolster Colorado's rural economy and enhance our energy diversity with a renewable supply of power that works in harmony with conservation of our natural resources."
Colorado State Senator Gail Schwarz, a noted advocate of renewable energy in Colorado, hopes the South Canal project will accelerate further small hydropower development in the Centennial State, explaining:
"This historic project demonstrates the power of cooperation and showcases the economic benefits of local renewable energy projects. I am optimistic that this project will serve as a model for other small hydro projects in Colorado. I hope in the near future we'll add hundreds of megawatts of power through small hydro to our state's energy mix, creating jobs while producing economical power that will benefit Colorado's rate payers."
Some in the nation's electric cooperative industry see the project as an example of how co-ops are energizing the economies of their service territories. Ken Anderson, Tri-State executive vice president and general manager, said, "DMEA's South Canal project is another example of the unique opportunities Tri-State's member co-ops have to invest in their communities by participating in the development of local renewable energy projects."
Jay A. Morrison, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's (NRECA's) Vice President of Regulatory Issues added, "This small hydro project perfectly illustrates how co-ops use ingenuity, hard work and partnerships to provide their consumer-members with reliable, affordable, clean energy. NRECA congratulates Delta-Montrose Electric Association on breaking ground for the South Canal Hydro project."
President Taft closed his rousing presentation to the more than 250 attendees at the electric co-op's annual meeting with words he uttered in Montrose, Colorado in 1909:
"I congratulate you on the prospect that lies before the people of this valley. There has been no exaggeration of the possibilities that are here; I like the prophecy of optimism."
SOURCE Delta-Montrose Electric Association