Irrigation systems in the US state of Colorado could soon be developed into small hydropower plants following the award of a $1.8 million grant from the US government.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) was awarded the funding by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support development of agricultural hydropower projects in Colorado, the Colorado Small Hydro Association announced. The project would helping agricultural producers turn irrigation systems into small hydropower plants by capturing existing available water pressure which is currently being wasted and using it to generate energy, saving money that would otherwise be spent paying for electricity to power irrigation systems.

"Water is vital to Colorado’s agricultural community; by making small hydropower accessible to our producers, we are helping them become more self-sufficient and protect their bottom line while creating more efficiency in their water usage," said Eric Lane, CDA’s Conservation Services Division Director.

The new first-of-its-kind agricultural hydropower program will facilitate the conversion of flood irrigation systems to pressurized irrigation systems with integrated hydropower. The project seeks to convert flood irrigation systems to center pivot systems with integrated hydropower and retrofit existing pressurized irrigation systems to add a hydropower component.

The new CDA hydro program received $1.8 Million in RCPP funding as part of the first round of funding for USDA’s new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), with USDA investing more than $370 million dollars to implement 100 high-impact conservation projects across all 50 states.

The program follows up on an agricultural hydropower assessment completed by the Colorado Department of Agriculture in 2014. The assessment concluded that Colorado has potential for installation of approximately 30MW of new small hydropower utilizing pressurized irrigation pipelines. Staff from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) will optimize and incorporate new hydropower assessment tools into a new standard practice in Colorado for development of hydropower using pressurized irrigation.

Source: Colorado Small Hydro Association