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Adversity spurs ingenuity in local ag community

Different power sources become more important

Herald and News Editoral December 9, 2012

Klamath Basin farmers face a lot of challenges, usually related to water. Thus the ability to think outside the box is important and is paying off for at least some local farmers, ranchers and others who are part of the agricultural economy.

Basin agriculture faces a double whammy. Year-to-year uncertainty in the water supply is a given. But irrigators also are now paying much more for power than they used to, and electricity is a big part of irrigation costs.

The rate paid by farmers for electricity increased many times over after a 50-year guarantee of lower rates ended in 2006. The guarantee was part of the agreement in effect after the Klamath River dams were built.

High costs and doubtful water supply encouraged creative thinking. This year, the Klamath Irrigation District completed a small hydroelectric plant near its headquarters where the A Canal sends water into the Upper C canal.
Some irrigators are using solar power to run irrigation pumps.
Final test drilling is going on at the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and also on private land nearby, where the temperature of geothermal water is too hot for irrigation, but too low for what is usually needed to produce energy. Itís being done with a rarely used French technology and the prospects look good.
There are also other projects in the local area that build on vision and a willingness to accept some risk.
The biggest is the $2 billion Swan Lake pumped storage project about 12 miles northeast of Klamath Falls, which is in the planning stages. That closed system would tie together two reservoirs of water at different elevations. Water would be pumped to the upper one from the lower one when demand and costs are low and return through turbines to produce power for the market when demand and rates are higher.
If the privately owned facility becomes reality, it would mean a big increase in the countyís tax base and the revenue available for such public needs as schools, law enforcement and roads. It would also produce about 60 jobs and bring more economic diversification to the county.
Geothermal heat, which has been used in the Klamath Basin for many decades, is at the core of inventive efforts. The natural hot water has been used in some fashion for as long as people have been in the Basin. Local tribes used the steam in various ways, as did the settlers who followed.
The areaís natural heat has been used for such things as growing fish and heating greenhouses and, in a less-commercial sense, keeping downtown sidewalks clear of snow. Itís also been used for decades to heat residential and public buildings.
Local farmers are also seeking and finding more niche markets, such as organically grown products. Some irrigators are using solar panels to power irrigation pumps.
The message in this isnít just that a lot of people are looking for ways to cope with increased power costs and uncertain water supplies, but that some are succeeding. Thatís not just good news for them, but for the rest of us, too.
Hydro Project is completed
The hydro facility replaced the old Enterprise hydro plant which burned down some 50 years ago. The facility is located near the KID headquarters where the A canal supplies water to the Upper C canal.
The C-Drop project includes an intake structure, forebay, powerhouse, and a 150-foot transmission line. While the initial anticipated flow of the run-of-canal project is 550 cubic feet per second, a 700-cfs vertical Kaplan turbine is to be installed to accommodate increased flow in the future. This increases from a 900 kW project to a 1.1 MW project which translates to a potential 3,600 MWh.
The amount of power generated from this power plant depends on the demand for water from the Upper C canal. Based on the historic flow data, the average power generation will be approximately 2900 MWh per year.




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