Aug. 25, 2010
Gov. Bill Ritter today announced that Colorado has signed a significant agreement with the federal government that will make it far easier to develop small hydropower projects.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Colorado will considerably streamline the permitting process, reducing the time and money required to develop a project and opening the door to derive more clean energy from small hydropower sites while maintaining high levels of environmental protections.
"This agreement moves our New Energy Economy another important step forward," Gov. Ritter said. "Colorado has enormous potential to produce more clean energy from small-scale hydroelectric power. These projects can create local jobs, diversify our energy supplies, reduce emissions and further bolster our energy security."
Surveys have found that Colorado has several hundred sites with a potential of 5 megawatts or less, with a combined generating capacity of more than 1,400 megawatts. One megawatt of small hydro could supply the power equivalent to the electricity needs of 500 to 750 homes. The lengthy permitting process, however, has prevented many projects from moving forward. In the past 30 years, only 24 small hydropower projects in Colorado have received an exemption permit from FERC.
To alleviate this barrier, the Governor's Energy Office has worked closely with FERC to find ways to not only shorten, but to simplify the process to obtain a permit so that it's cost-effective for smaller projects to advance.
"I am proud that Colorado continues to be a leader in the clean energy economy. This agreement will not only create more jobs, but will generate a new source of renewable energy to power our state that will ultimately limit our reliance on foreign oil," U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said. "The cooperation between our state and federal government demonstrates what a powerful team we can be when we join forces."
Small hydro projects typically take advantage of existing dams, ditches, canals and pipelines to make the projects more practical. Such projects also avoid additional diversions from Colorado streams, as they use water flows already designated for crops or municipal supplies.
As part of this initiative, GEO has contracted with a group of renewable energy experts, known as the Renewable Energy Development Team (REDT), to assist the best projects in the state in navigating the FERC permitting process. Small hydro developers interested in participating in this program will be able to apply directly at the GEO's website, rechargecolorado.com, in the fall.