Strawberry Hydroelectric Project, located on Strawberry Creek in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest
By Michael Kahn | This article is reprinted with permission from ECT.coop.
It’s best known as a top-flight ski resort and as the gateway to Yellowstone National Park. But beyond that, Jackson, Wyo., has a new claim to fame.
It can now boast that all town operations are powered by renewable energy from a co-op.
“The town of Jackson has been a leader in trying to be energy efficient, and has been very proactive trying to walk the walk and not just talk the talk,” said Jim Webb, president and CEO of Lower Valley Energy. “They’re very interested in trying to reduce their own usage and to be as green as they can.”
The Afton, Wyo.-based co-op is in a unique partnership with the town to supply it with energy from the Strawberry Hydroelectric Project, located on Strawberry Creek in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest. It was the state’s first hydropower facility to be certified by the independent Low Impact Hydropower Institute based in Portland, Maine.
“The plant—depending on the year and how much water we have—produces between nine and ten million kilowatt-hours. The town of Jackson uses about eight and a-half to nine million kilowatt hours a year,” said Webb, who called it “a perfect match.”
Last April, officials in the town of about 8,400 signed a “10 by 10” resolution, committing to a 10 percent reduction in municipal energy usage by 2010.
Webb said Jackson had already been buying blocks of wind power from Lower Valley, and that the resolution was a continuation of the town’s efforts to go green.
“This is a remarkable partnership with Lower Valley Energy,” said Jackson Mayor Mark Barron. “This program speaks directly to the importance of LVE in our community.”
While the hydropower is expected to cost Jackson an extra $45,000 annually, Barron called it “a smart business decision” involving a “small amount” of the $39 million budget for fiscal 2008.
The co-op and town have worked on other energy saving measures. Jackson hired an energy service company to audit its buildings, and after switching to more energy efficient lighting, Lower Valley provided the town with rebates through its power supplier, Bonneville Power Administration.
Webb also said the town encourages its employees to turn off lights and computers and to limit how much their cars idle.
Jackson also formed a joint energy efficiency board with Teton County, and Webb is active on that panel.
Lower Valley is working on other green projects, including one in its home base of Afton, where a hydro project was abandoned some 40 years ago. “We’re working with the town of Afton to restore that and certify that as green power,” Webb said.
It could potentially supply Teton County, which, he said, also has discussed going 100 percent green.