Colorado Agricultural Hydropower Projects

In January the Colorado Small Hydro Association (COSHA), based in Telluride, announced a $1.8 million grant awarded to the Colorado Department of Agriculture by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support the development of agricultural hydropower projects in the state. The COSHA indicated that the grant will be important in stemming energy costs for area farmers. A COSHA report indicated that Colorado farmers spend an average of $33,000 each year on electricity, mostly to power irrigation pumps. A 2013 analysis by the Colorado Energy Office found that farmers in Colorado report energy expenses around 7 percent of total operating costs. Through the newly established Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the USDA is investing $370 million in the implementation of conservation projects in all 50 states. According to COSHA, the new hydro projects won’t result in any new dams or water diversions, but will instead rely on existing untapped water pressure. COSHA estimates 500 new jobs could be created by the new hydro development in Colorado. The new agricultural hydropower program will facilitate the conversion of flood irrigation systems to pressurized irrigation systems with integrated hydropower.