SnoPUD Opens First Hydro Project in WA in Nearly 20 Years

Source:  SnoPUD Press Release, October 17, 2011.

Youngs Creek Small Hydropower Project

Snohomish County Public Utility District today opened the first new hydroelectric project in Washington state in nearly 20 years. The Youngs Creek facility, located south of Sultan, has a generating capacity of 7.5 megawatts – or enough power, on average, for about 2,000 homes.

“We’re committed to operating this facility and other hydropower projects in a way that protects our natural environment while serving the community’s needs for high quality water and energy,” said PUD Board of Commissioners President Dave Aldrich. “We’re focused on operating our projects to keep energy competitively priced in balance with fish, wildlife, recreational and cultural resources.”

The Youngs Creek Project gives the PUD greater flexibility with its power supply as it’s a locally generated, reliable resource that provides energy at times of the year when it’s needed the most. It’s also competitively priced compared to other green energy sources.

Project Facts & Figures:

  • Generating capacity of 7.5 megawatts, enough for about 2,000 homes
  • Project cost – $29 million
  • Three-mile underground pipeline drops 920 feet in elevation from intake to powerhouse. Underground/overhead transmission lines connect to Sultan substation.
  • The Youngs Creek Project is located above a natural barrier, a waterfall, so as not to impact migrating fish, such as salmon. There are resident trout in upper reaches of the creek, but they are already isolated due to the falls and other conditions.
  • Numerous government agencies – local, state and federal – and the Tulalip Tribes provided input during the development of the PUD’s Youngs Creek Project.

The PUD’s Youngs Creek Project and other small hydropower sites are located outside of sensitive areas, such as designated wilderness lands.  These “backyard resources” also reduce the need for hundreds of miles of new transmission line, minimizing both line losses and environmental impacts.

As the PUD has planned and developed new hydropower projects, it has been diligent in its efforts to include a broad range of stakeholders, including community members, local tribes, environmental groups and regulatory agencies. It has worked closely with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, other state and federal agencies and local tribes to ensure that, as facilities are developed, they provide adequate levels of river flow and protect fish.

For decades, the bulk of the PUD’s energy has come from clean, renewable hydroelectric power. Most of this energy is purchased from Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), which markets wholesale power generated in the Columbia River Basin.  Hydropower has provided a low-cost, reliable source of energy for the people of the Northwest.

Three PUD-operated hydropower plants also are sited in Snohomish County: the Jackson Hydropower Project, north of Sultan; the Woods Creek Project, north of Monroe; and the newly-opened Youngs Creek Project, south of Sultan. Between the PUD’s projects and BPA energy, about 80 percent of the PUD’s energy now comes from hydropower.

The PUD also is proactively researching and securing other clean, renewable resources, such as geothermal, wind, solar and tidal energy as part of its effort to meet growing needs through conservation and renewable energy. The utility has one of the most comprehensive solar energy programs in the Northwest, which offers incentives and technical resources for customers. It contracts for wind energy from three facilities in Oregon and Washington. The utility also is at the forefront of researching tidal and geothermal energy development in the Northwest.