Denver Water's new project could be the future of hydropower

Posted at 7:43 PM, Jun 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-23 21:44:13-04

DENVER -- Denver Water has launched an innovative new project that could be the future of hydropower.

It uses city canal water to power hydrokinetic generators and create green energy without building a dam.

"We're trying to capture that energy and generate electricity with it," explained Ian Oliver with Denver Water, who is overseeing the project. "It's low impact. It doesn't involve a reservoir or a dam."

The canal where the first generator unit was installed already moves city water from the mountains to the Ralston Reservoir in Golden. The turbines use blades spinning in the water to tap into that existing energy.

"This technology that we're using is an emerging technology. What we're doing with it is we're putting the units in an array, so we're having more than one unit together, which is something that hasn't been done in the United States before," said Oliver.

Oliver said each unit can produce about 80-megawatt hours of energy a year, which is enough to generate power to seven homes.

"More hydropower generation is more money that Denver Water is able to make," he explained.

The program could lower your water bill. Denver Water sells its hydro energy and said it will use that money to lower operating costs.

"Look at the efficiency and the benefits to our customers," said Oliver.

The city is working with Emrgy, the company who designed the generators. The city plans to install ten turbines by the end of the summer.

The hope is that one day the turbines can be deployed around the world without using dams.

"There are canals delivering water to millions of people, and this is a way that we can make beneficial use of that water," explained Oliver.

The turbines are part of a pilot program and will cost the city around $330,000. This fall, Denver Water plans to study how well they work before making any long-term decisions.