Hydropower has played a role at Tri-State since it was formed in 1952. During its first 20 years of operation, the G&T was responsible for administering power supply contracts for its 26 founding member cooperatives. All of the contracts were held with the United States Bureau of Reclamation, which, at the time, was supplying most of the energy to rural electric cooperatives in the western United States in the form of hydroelectric generation.
Initially, the hydropower Tri-State purchased from the Bureau came from the Missouri River Basin. In 1969, due to limited allocations of Bureau power from the Missouri River Basin, Tri-State began purchasing wholesale power from the Colorado River Storage Project. In 1977, the Bureau’s marketing and transmission functions were taken over by the newly-formed Western Area Power Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Hydroelectric generation involves converting the energy of falling water into electricity. Water flowing in rivers or released from reservoirs is used to turn turbines that create electricity. Though there are several types of hydroelectric plants, the most common is an impoundment facility, where a dam holds and directs the flow of water from a reservoir. Today, Tri-State continues to purchase power from Western and is one of the largest federal hydropower customers in the western United States. This cost-efficient hydroelectricity comprises more than 10 percent of the electricity Tri-State sells to its members.
Colorado River Storage Project (CRSP)
The CRSP is comprised of dams and generation facilities on the Colorado River and its tributaries. The project includes four storage units: Glen Canyon on the Colorado River in Arizona near the Utah border; Flaming Gorge on the Green River in Utah near the Wyoming border; Navajo on the San Juan River in New Mexico near the Colorado border; and the Wayne N. Aspinall Storage Unit on the Gunnison River in west-central Colorado.
The reservoirs formed by four units of the CRSP have a total capacity of nearly 34 million acre-feet. Power plants and other facilities are provided at each dam except Navajo, and a complex transmission system has been provided. This transmission system carries CRSP power to key load points in the marketing area. The system is integrated with preference-user and private-company transmission lines to form the CRSP Interconnected Transmission System. CRSP hydropower is delivered to preference-user organizations for distribution to their consumers as required by Federal Reclamation Law.
Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program
Authorized by Congress in 1944, the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program provides flood control, irrigation, navigation, recreation, preservation and enhancement of fish and wildlife and power generation on the Missouri River. Seven dams and power plants have the installed capacity of 2,610 megawatts. That hydroelectric power is delivered across about 7,919 miles of federal transmission line.