GCEA is in the process of developing a local, small hydroelectric generating plant at the Taylor Reservoir Dam within Gunnison County. GCEA continues to diversify its supply portfolio through the addition of renewable and environmentally friendly, sustainable resources, pursuant to the terms and conditions of the contract with GCEA’s electrical supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc.
The planned hydroelectric plant at this Bureau of Reclamation facility will be considered a “small hydro” installation with a 500 kW generator. A generating plant of this size would operate at or near full capacity 24 hours a day year-round. This high capacity factor could result in 3.9 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually. By comparison, a 500 kW hydro project would produce about the same amount of energy annually as some 2,500 kW (2.5 megawatt) fixed-tilt solar arrays.
In early 2020, GCEA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association (UVWUA). GCEA and UVWUA formed a jointly-owned entity called Taylor River Hydro LLC to develop, own, and operate the plant.
Next steps in the project involve design, engineering, NEPA analysis and approval from the Bureau of Reclamation, county permitting, and then construction development and management.
In 2016, Telluride Energy created an assessment study indicating a 200 kW plant would be technically and economically feasible.
In 2013 to 2014, GCEA received a renewable system feasibility study through the USDA. GCEA partnered with the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association (UVWUA) on the project and they also contributed to the feasibility study. GCEA hired NEI Electric Power Engineering, Inc. to conduct an Electrical Interconnection and System Impact study. The NEI analysis concluded that a relatively small plant could be built with minimal changes to the distribution system or a larger plant could be constructed to take advantage of the available water resource but would require extensive power system upgrades.
In 2011, GCEA received a technical assistance grant from the Governor’s Energy Office. This study led the GCEA Board of Directors to move forward with further investigations.
In 2009, GCEA partnered with the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (UGRWCD) and the UVWUA to apply for a grant from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority. The partners provided $15,000 matching funds and hired URS to conduct a preliminary general feasibility study. While this “reconnaissance-level investigation” indicated that adding hydropower at the existing dam would be feasible from a technical and economic perspective, it recommended a more comprehensive feasibility investigation to refine the analysis.
Taylor Dam History
The Uncompahgre Project (PDF) is an article from the Bureau of Reclamation, written in 1994 by David Clark and edited by W.J. Simonds. The document describes the rich history of the development of water resources in the Uncompahgre Valley. The Taylor Dam is discussed in the final third of the document.
The Construction of Taylor Park Dam (PDF) is an article written by the Bureau of Reclamation engineer on the project during construction, Donald Jerman. This article was part of the “Reclamation Era” document released in May 1938. The construction details, diagrams, and vintage pictures are invaluable.