Yellowstone National Park to utilize power of new hydroelectric plant
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
February 4, 2013
Yellowstone National Park is harnessing the power of flowing water with a new hydroelectric facility on the Gardiner River.
It’s the first time since the 1950s that the park has been generating some of its own electricity.
The last Yellowstone hydroelectric facility was built in 1903, when a 100-kilowatt water turbine generator was installed near the Mammoth Hot Springs headquarters. That has since been decommissioned, but a new micro-hydro plant is now generating twice that amount of power and satisfying about a third of the electricity demand for National Park Service administration buildings in Mammoth, said Peter Gallindo, project manager and a Yellowstone engineer.
The plant is rated at 230 kilowatts, but will average 180 kilowatts factoring in downtime and periods of low flow on the river.
“It will save us about $70,000 in electricity,” Gallindo said. “It’s a super green energy source that’s always there.”
The life of the new hydro facility, which is not part of a dam but uses water piped into an outbuilding, is expected to be 50 to 80 years, Gallindo said.
Water that feeds the turbine flows 560 feet downhill from the Gardiner River, Panther Creek and Indian Creek water intakes. An existing storage reservoir at Mammoth’s water treatment plant feeds a turbine through an existing 12-inch pipe, Gallindo said.
The Yellowstone engineer heralded the project for having only a slight effect on park resources.
“It’s a project we had on the books for a long time, because it’s such a good project in terms of payback,” he said. “When the [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] came around, we were able to secure funding.”
The plant — the largest renewable energy-producing plant in Yellowstone — cost $1.1 million. It’s expected to pay for itself in about 12 years.