Another step in Taylor dam hydro project slated for this month

Could be generating power within a year…

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

Tangible progress continues on the plan to use the Taylor Reservoir and Taylor dam to generate hydroelectric power in Gunnison County. If everything falls into place, power could be produced before the end of 2023 but will more likely start in early 2024. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will receive the completed design plan from the Gunnison County Electric Association (GCEA) next week for review.

“Our 100% design plan will go to the USBR for final review on February 11,” explained GCEA strategy execution specialist Matt Feier. “GCEA’s primary power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, has approved our project application. We are very close to signing the construction contract and only waiting for some final numbers before signing.”

Construction on the 500 kilowatt (kW) generator would start this spring in late April or early May after all the permits are approved and the snow has melted at the site. According to the GCEA, a generating plant of this size would operate at or near full capacity 24 hours a day all year round. It would result in 3.9 million kilowatt-hours annually or enough to power 475 average Gunnison County houses. By comparison, a 500 kW hydro project would produce about the same amount of energy annually as some 2,500 kW fixed-tilt solar arrays.

“The dam was originally designed to accommodate hydroelectric energy generation,” said Feier. “The distribution lines in the canyon can handle the anticipated output and it will produce sustainable power for the local coop.”

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. 

The Taylor Park Dam was built in 1937 and was originally designed to incorporate a hydroelectric facility at a later date, explained Feier. The Bureau of Reclamation owns the facility and has awarded a Lease of Power Privilege to Taylor River Hydro, LLC. to get the hydroelectric project running.

The cost of the project is estimated to be approximately $3.3 million. Most of the money for the project is initially coming from GCEA and the UVWUA with federal grant and reimbursement funding expected for a significant portion of the initial investment.

Feier said a large, specialized transformer has been ordered as part of the project. “We have been aiming to have the facility commissioned by December 31, 2023, but that may have to be pushed by a couple of months due to a long lead time for one specialized, necessary valve,” he said. “That valve might have to be manufactured as a one off. But the goal is to get the dam working to produce electricity within the next year.”

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