Study shows Aztec irrigation ditches cannot produce significant hydropower

Hannah Grover The Daily Times
The Daily Times

AZTEC — The idea of using the water in local irrigation ditches to produce power has been brought up to Aztec officials many times, prompting them to conduct a hydrology study.

The City Commission commissioned the study in 2013. During a commission work session Tuesday evening, commissioners learned that the results of that study show the ditches do not have enough water or flow downward at enough of an angle to power turbines and produce significant power.

Aztec has four main irrigation ditches flowing through it — Aztec, Lower Animas, Farmers and Elledge-Mill.

"My original vision is we just put a large water wheel in the ditch," Ken George, the city's electric department's director, said.

But he said such a wheel would not generate enough electricity to justify its cost, according to the study.

The city of Aztec has been looking for ways to diversify its electricity sources. It currently purchases power from the Public Service Company of New Mexico and Western Area Power Administration.

The city's contract with PNM expires in 2016, and city officials will then decide whether to renew it for another five years, according to city manager Joshua Ray.

After the workshop, Ray said the city is already drafting a future agreement that will also look at the potential for adding renewable energy.

"We do have high hopes that in the next two years we could look hard at a solar project," George told commissioners.

Many home owners in Aztec have installed solar panels, and the city has a grid-tie agreement with the local business Hydro Pure Technology Inc., which uses a large amount of solar power, Ray said after the work session.

"I think eventually it will go in the way of personal computers," Commissioner Katee McClure said of solar power during the work session.

She said computers started as large and expensive objects but have since decreased in size and price.

While the federal government and state government offer rebates for individuals and companies installing solar panels or wind turbines, those rebates are not available for local governments, Ray said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.