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New hydropower facility at Spaur Ranch produces clean energy, promotes rural resiliency

Local officials celebrate the second project at Northeastern Oregon ranch

WALLOWA, Ore. — October 18, 2016 — Spaur Ranch celebrated its second small hydropower facility today. Oregon State Senator Bill Hansell, local landowners, government officials, and tribal, nonprofit and utility representatives attended the event in recognition of the efforts by the ranch and others around the state to modernize their irrigation systems.

“This is a great example of collaboration and innovation to benefit landowners and our local economy,” said State Senator Bill Hansell, R-Athena. “This project offers a vision for other landowners, ranchers and farmers in Wallowa County to produce energy on-site and receive multiple benefits. The partnership that was able to form between Energy Trust and Spaur Ranch is one that can be used as an example for future projects.”

The renewable energy produced by the 11-kilowatt facility will be used to offset the electricity needs of SPS, a truck and automotive repair business that is part of Spaur Ranch. Property owners Vern and Marti Spaur are expected to offset nearly 100 percent of their annual energy consumption. The hydropower plant — Spaur Ranch’s second — began operating earlier this month. The ranch’s first hydropower plant was installed in 2011.

“With not one but two small turbines on their ranch, the Spaur family is leading the way forward in micro-hydro energy development in Wallowa County,” said Christoffersen, executive director, Wallowa Resources. “Small renewable energy projects like these help save farms, businesses and school districts millions of dollars per year in Wallowa County.”

The Spaur Ranch hydropower facility will generate approximately 82,000 kilowatt hours of renewable electricity annually, and was made possible by a $60,000 cash incentive from Energy Trust of Oregon and a $30,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program. The project’s total cost is estimated at $125,000. The project was developed by Kyle Petrocine, Matt King and Nils Christoffersen of Wallowa Resources Community Solutions, and engaged local contractors during installation.

“Innovation like the Spaur Ranch hydropower facility, which uses an agricultural irrigation system to provide renewable energy for a local small business, is helping to sustain economically vibrant rural communities,” said Vicki Walker, state director, USDA Rural Development. “Energy costs can consume a large part of a business’s budget. By providing funding for projects like this, USDA is helping to improve the bottom line for small businesses while also reducing greenhouse gas pollution and creating jobs.”

This project is an example of the hydropower opportunities that can be created through the modernization of Oregon’s agricultural water delivery systems. Future projects across the state are being identified through the Irrigation Modernization Program from Energy Trust and Farmers Conservation Alliance, partnering with local organizations such as Wallowa Resources Community Solutions, The Freshwater Trust and The Nez Perce Tribe in Wallowa County.

The Irrigation Modernization Program helps irrigation districts find the funding and resources they need to create state-of-the-art irrigation systems that replace open canals with pipes, saving water and leaving more water in-stream for fish and wildlife. Pressurized pipes allow irrigators to remove pumps, which saves electricity, maintenance and replacement costs and enables farmers to upgrade to more water-efficient irrigation systems. Excess pressure in water on its way to delivery on farm can also be used to generate hydropower.

“The Spaur Ranch project is demonstrating the potential of small hydropower at ranch and agricultural operations across Oregon,” said Betsy Kauffman, renewable energy sector lead, Energy Trust. “Assessments underway in other areas will reveal the potential for farms, ranches and irrigation districts to generate power and deliver multiple benefits, including saving billions of gallons of water every year.”

Assessments of the potential benefits associated with modernization are now underway at 12 Oregon irrigation districts, identifying the renewable energy, energy efficiency, agricultural, water, environmental and economic benefits associated with modernization. In Wallowa County, assessment work is underway on the Westside/Poley-Allen ditches near Lostine, as well as the North Prairie Creek Ditch near Joseph. Other piping and hydropower projects are being evaluated along the Alder, Hurricane and Ruby Peak ditches. Six additional standalone hydropower projects are also being assessed.

WALLOWA RESOURCES: Wallowa Resources develops, promotes, and implements innovative solutions to help the people of Wallowa County and the Intermountain West to sustain and improve our communities and our lands. This work includes land stewardship and business development, as well as education and research. Learn more at or call 541-426-8053.

USDA Rural Development: USDA Rural Development is committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America. Through its loan, grant, and loan guarantee programs, Rural Development supports essential services such as housing; healthcare; first responder services and equipment; and water, electric, and communication infrastructure. The agency also promotes economic development by supporting loans to businesses and offering technical assistance to communities, agricultural producers, and cooperatives. USDA Rural Development has a $215 billion loan portfolio nationwide. Learn more at or call 503-414-3300.

ENERGY TRUST: Energy Trust of Oregon is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping utility customers benefit from saving energy and generating renewable power. Our services, cash incentives and energy solutions have helped participating customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas save nearly $2.3 billion on energy bills. Our work helps keep energy costs as low as possible, creates jobs and builds a sustainable energy future. Learn more at or call 1-866-368-7878.

Category: Renewable Energy