Tri-City company gets grant to develop canal hydropower

Colossus concrete dams, sprawling transmission lines and wide rivers are usually associated with hydropower.

A Tri-City company is hoping to add "irrigation canals" to that list.

Green Energy Today recently received a nearly $900,000 grant from the state to move forward with its plan to use a small turbine-generator on an irrigation canal north of Pasco to create about 600 kilowatts of energy, enough to power between 200 and 300 homes.

The grant came from $20 million in stimulus money given to Washington to be used on energy-efficient, renewable energy and clean technology programs.

The canal sits about five miles north of Pasco and drops about 140 feet in elevation over about a quarter-mile on its way to the Columbia River, said Jerry Straalsund, Green Energy Today chief executive officer.

"The canal just dissipates the energy of the water," he added.

Straalsund and Patrick McDaniel, Green Energy Today chief operations officer, devised a system to capture that dissipating energy. Straalsund said a pipe will catch the water near the top of the canal's downward slope and carry it to a turbine-generator near the river's edge.

"You put it in a smooth pipe and you don't lose that energy," he said.

The turbine-generator, which Straalsund said is about "the height of a man" and about 6- to 7-feet wide, would sit in a 20-by-30-foot building.

If everything goes to plan, the project could be up and running in a year. Franklin PUD is interested in buying Green Energy Today's power if the company's plan comes to fruition.

"We've talked to them on a partly preliminary basis," said Linda Boomer, Franklin PUD's director of power management.

The project sits in Big Bend Electric Cooperative's service area, but Big Bend is not interested in purchasing any power that would be generated, said Dale Anderson, Big Bend's manager of market services.

Franklin PUD wrote a letter supporting the project to the state before the $898,000 grant was awarded.

"It just seemed like a good project," Boomer said. "It's clean; there's no carbon emissions from it."

Straalsund now plans to create detailed designs and begin ordering materials. A company called Canyon Hydro, located outside Bellingham, will build the turbine-generator, Straalsund said.

"We feel great, we've been working on this project for some time," he said, excited that the project is coming to life. "We don't think this project could have been successful without this grant."

-- Drew Foster: 585-7207;