Northeast Oregon’s Wallowa County has a unique history with micro hydropower plants. Some projects even date as far back as the late 1800s, when four micro hydropower plants were installed in the county’s largest towns.
In a recent installment of the Wallowa Resources Podcast, producer and host Emily Branigan dives deeper into the county’s legacy of micro hydropower projects. After detailing more about how hydropower works and what micro hydropower projects are, the episode shares a story about a recent local update.
Spaur Ranch’s introduction of two new hydropower facilities began in 2011. The first facility was so successful, that a second facility was added just five years later. Property owners Vern and Marti Spaur worked with Energy Trust of Oregon and Community Solutions, Inc (CSI) to offset the cost and make it happen. The 100% sustainable ranch now saves so much on energy costs, they are sometimes able to donate the extra power they produce to charity, to help those in need reduce their power bills.
“It has been worth it—every cent,” said Vern Spaur. “The type of system we have is so simple, so efficient, but it has to be the right type of property—but Wallowa County has lots of potential.”
The decision to complete a micro hydropower project might sound daunting, but as detailed in the podcast, it can be much easier than expected. Energy Trust supports projects that increase energy efficiency by providing cash incentives for eligible equipment upgrades. These incentives, combined with the amount of money upgrades can save on monthly utility bills, decrease upfront costs and reduce the payback period for the upgrade.