The South Canal Hydroelectric Project is comprised of two small hydro turbines, totaling 7.5 MW, situated along the South Canal in Montrose, CO. DMEA and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association partnered to develop the generation units, which produce approximately 27,000,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually. This is roughly equivalent to the power used by 3,000 homes in DMEA’s service territory. Electricity is produced during the irrigation season, April through October, to match the existing flow of water.
It is estimated that the South Canal project, will eliminate more than 275,000 tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere over a 30-year period, while producing about 6-7 megawatts (MW) of capacity annually.
South Canal History
If you live in the Uncompahgre Valley, you’re part of a vision that began more than 100 years ago. In 1909, the fledgling U.S. Bureau of Reclamation revealed its first major project, the 5.8 mile Gunnison Tunnel, an engineering marvel and the longest irrigation tunnel in the world at the time. President William Howard Taft was present to officially open the tunnel, enabling our semi-arid zone to be transformed into a thriving agricultural community.
A century later, that vision expanded when DMEA and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association (UVWUA) announced plans to construct a multi-million dollar hydroelectric plant along the South Canal. The plant delivers water from the Gunnison Tunnel to the valley.
DMEA, together with the UVWUA, officially broke ground on the South Canal Hydroelectric Project on May 25, 2012. The project included the construction of two run-of-river intakes and two powerhouses that would operate without damming. The facilities are located on two of three, previously identified sites, labeled “Site 1” and “Site 3.” “Site 2” is reserved for potential development in the future.