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Meetings Explore Small Hydropower Possibilities in Big Horn Basin

December 16, 2014

Opportunities for agricultural producers, irrigation districts and other water users to develop small hydropower resources at existing water infrastructure will be covered in a series of meetings and roundtables in Worland, Powell and Basin Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 7-8.

The Wyoming Business Council and State Energy Office partnered with University of Wyoming Extension and the UW School of Energy Resources to develop the “Wyoming Small Hydropower Handbook,” which is the foundation of the discussion, says Milt Geiger, UW Extension energy coordinator.

Geiger will offer an overview of the development process and typical characteristics of a feasible development opportunity.

“Small hydropower offers water users the opportunity to make our Wyoming waters work even harder, producing electricity while serving the needs of irrigators and municipalities,” Geiger says.

The roundtables and presentation highlight the “where, what and how” of the evaluation process, including Wyoming case studies, he says. Recent reports by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation identifying potential development locations in the Big Horn Basin will be discussed. Incentives and a simplified permitting process also will receive attention. 

“Most irrigation drops or pipelines will not be economically feasible to develop,” Geiger says. “We want to help water users make an informed decision whether to proceed or to purposefully choose inaction.”

Sklor Wade of Wenck Associates, the handbook’s lead author, also emphasizes, “Just like growing any crop, finding a profitable market for electricity from small hydropower is essential. If you cannot produce it at a profit, it is best to simply watch the water flow by.”

Roundtable discussions are in Worland and Basin, while a more formal presentation, featuring manager Bryant Startin, is planned in Powell. Startin will address the Shoshone Irrigation District’s experience with small hydropower. UW Extension educators Mae Smith (Big Horn County) and Caitlin Price Youngquist (Washakie County) are hosting the events. Location and meeting times are:

Worland -- Wednesday, Jan. 7, 7 a.m. in the Worland Community Center, UW Extension office, 1200 Culbertson. Pastries and coffee will be served.

Powell -- Wednesday, Jan. 7, 7 p.m. in the Powell Research and Extension Center, 747 Rd. 9.

Basin -- Thursday, Jan. 8, noon at the Big Horn County Fairgrounds, Fair Hall, 315 E. Holdrege Ave. Lunch will be served.

Additional renewable energy information, including small hydropower, is available from UW’s Efficient and Renewable Energy website at

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