Colorado receives $1.8 million to advance agricultural hydropower project development

A $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture should help the Colorado Department of Agriculture support development of agricultural hydropower projects in the state, according to a press release from the Colorado Small Hydro Association.

Adding small hydropower generating units on existing irrigation systems is attractive because it does not involve building new dams or water diversions. It allows agricultural producers to capture existing available water pressure, which is currently being wasted, and use it to generate electricity.

Energy costs can represent a significant operational cost for agricultural producers. According to a 2013 analysis commissioned by the Colorado Energy Office, farmers in Colorado have indicated that energy expenses are generally about 7% of total operating expenses. In the farming sector, irrigation and its associated electricity costs are one of the largest areas of energy consumption.

“Water is vital to Colorado’s agricultural community; by making small hydropower accessible to our producers, we are helping them become more self-sufficient and protect their bottom line while creating more efficiency in their water usage,” said Eric Lane, conservation services division director with CDA.

The agricultural hydropower program will facilitate the conversion of flood irrigation systems to pressurized irrigation systems with integrated hydropower.

An agricultural hydropower assessment completed by CDA in 2014 concluded that Colorado has potential for installation of about 30 MW of new small hydropower utilizing pressurized irrigation pipelines.

The funding was received under the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which involves investing more than $370 million to implement 100 high-impact conservation projects across all 50 states.

COSHA is dedicated to accelerating development of small hydro in Colorado.

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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