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Our View: Utes lead with hydropower

We are pleased to hear the hums and whistles, the sounds of renewable energy on the 7,700-acre Ute Mountain Farm and Ranch Enterprise southwest of Towaoc. The new hydroelectric system is expected to hit three major marks: Conserve water, save $30,000 to $40,000 per year in electric bills and mitigate climate issues.

As reported in The Journal, so far, so good on the tribe’s first hydroelectric generator, started this summer, on an irrigation line for a field prepped for winter wheat on the farm, which has 110 center pivots.

Two more generators were installed on nearby field irrigation lines and staged for operations. By 2024, the tribe will have 10 hydropower plants capturing energy from pressurized pipes, which drop 220 feet in elevation from the Towaoc Highline Canal.

About 18 kilowatts of energy are captured from the flow. Enough water pressure remains for power.

Once online, electricity produced will cover costs for the farm, and the adjacent Bow and Arrow Brand corn mill.

The tribe provided the skilled labor to install just about everything. New nozzles on the center pivots emit 7.3 gallons per minute, down from the previous 8.5 gallons per minute. Mature cornfields are being irrigated and until harvest time, it’s not known how this water efficiency will result in yields.

But it sure is hopeful.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture grant contributed $929,000. A Colorado Department of Agriculture grant for $413,000 was awarded for renovation of 18 center pivots and water nozzles. Each micro hydropower plant costs an estimated $75,000.

It’s a lot of investment. And it’s the future.

Irrigated farms have existing infrastructure and hold so much potential for renewable energy development in the Southwest. We’re looking to the Ute Mountain Ute to lead the way with this project.