Colorado town endorses 1.05-MW Castle Creek project

Aspen voters approved two ballot questions Nov. 6 supporting redevelopment of a small hydroelectric project on Castle Creek that has been idle for nearly half a century.

The 1.05-MW Castle Creek project would use existing water rights, headgates, and water storage components of the original Castle Creek hydroelectric plant, which met all of Aspen’s electricity needs from 1892 through 1958. Restoring generating capacity will require construction of a new powerhouse and a penstock from a water plant to the powerhouse, installation of two turbines and generators, and related electric system work.

In an election that drew less than 17 percent of Aspen’s 5,167 registered voters, a referendum passed 576-228 that allows the city to issue general obligation bonds for building and equipping the new hydro plant. The measure allows the city to increase its debt by up to $5.5 million, with a maximum repayment cost of $10.78 million by the issuance of general obligation bonds.

The expected $5.1 million improvement cost is to be partially financed through appropriations of $780,000, and through a grant of $400,000, leaving $3.92 million to be financed through bond sales. Assuming a 20-year amortization period, the expected capital cost of the facility would be offset by savings in power now purchased from the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska.

Voters also approved, 616-182, a referendum authorizing the city to change the use of property at the proposed site to allow for building the power plant.

Switching from mostly coal-fired energy purchases from the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska to the production of power at the proposed hydroelectric project would eliminate an estimated 5,167 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, Public Works Director Phil Overeynder said.

The new facility would increase electricity production by 5,500 MWh annually. It also would increase the city electric utility’s renewable energy supplies by 8 percent.

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