Vern and Marti Spaur, Wallowa
Renewable power, rural resiliency
With a 160-acre irrigated ranch plus an automotive repair business, Vern and Marti Spaur faced hefty electric bills. But not anymore.
Today, two micro-hydropower turbines on their property put irrigation water and gravity to work to generate 157,000 kilowatt hours a year—enough to meet all their power needs. “It’s a great feeling,” said Vern. “I’m donating excess power to local charities, and I have a clean carbon footprint.”
Their project came about after the Spaurs tapped into Energy Trust’s Irrigation Modernization offering, which helps irrigation districts find funding and resources to create state-of-the-art irrigation systems that save water and leave more water in-stream for fish and wildlife. A $137,470 cash incentive from Energy Trust, plus grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program, helped the Spaurs convert an open irrigation ditch into pressurized pipe and install two micro-hydropower turbines. The excess pressure generates power. And with less evaporation, they still have plenty of water for irrigation.
“After I return the water to the ditch, it travels four miles before it reaches the Wallowa River,” said Vern. “There’s enough gravity in that stretch that other landowners could do the same thing, using the same water to generate power over and over. It’s like a big recycling project.”