Silverton Small-Scale Hydropower Project Approved

According to a Telluride Daily Planet article, one of the first new small hydroelectric power projects in the country is quickly taking shape in Silverton, thanks to new legislation championed by an Ophir man. At only 11 kilowatts of electricity the project might be relatively small, but it represents a big change. It’s the first small hydro project to be built in Colorado under new regulations signed into law by President Obama on August 9th. The new law is called the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act, and it clears the regulatory path for small hydro projects nationwide. Kurt Johnson of Ophir, who is the president of the Colorado Small Hydro Association, has been working to get the legislation passed for years. He said the Silverton project is a true milestone because, like the legislation, it has been tied up in red tape for a long time. “It’s exciting for a number of reasons,” Johnson said. “It exemplifies that there is now this new process available nationwide for anyone developing a small hydro project on an existing conduit.”  Under the new regulations, hydro projects on existing waterways producing less than 5 megawatts of electricity are exempt from much of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) hydroelectric requirements. Before the exemption was put into place, small projects had to go through the FERC process, which could take years to complete and cost thousands of dollars in fees and other costs.