Drought Shutters Hydro Power Generation

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VERDI, NV - Our water situation worsened on Wednesday as the level of the Truckee River continued to drop. We have finally reached the point where the drought is having some unexpected consequences; it's affecting power generation.

Three different power plants along the Truckee River have been providing electricity since the days of the Comstock Lode.

"You take a water column, you drop that water column down and you spin a turbine and that turbine in turn spins a generator," said Pat Nielson, who is in charge of TMWA's hydro power generation.

The technology has remained relatively unchanged in the 130 years since hydro power was invented. That's why TMWA's hydro plants are still just as useful today as they were the day they opened.

"It's a good green energy. There is no fuel use, no thermal loading of the water, these are a good green source of power," said Nielson.

The hydroelectric system is 100 years old but that does not means its not useful. Combined the three power houses generate enough power for about 5400 homes, according to TMWA.

"6.7 megawatts is not a great amount when it is compared to all of northern Nevada," said Faye Anderson with NV Energy.

The energy the TMWA generates is fed back into the NV Energy power grid. In the grand scheme of things it is not much energy, but it is more than TMWA uses in its entire operation.

"To TMWA and to its water customers who use that to supply their water pumping and what have you, it could have an amount for them," said Anderson.

As good as it is, its about to be shut off.

"The upstream storage is dwindling, the river has been cut back and this plant probably will only be online maybe another 4 to five days," said Nielson.

One of the plants powered down Wednesday morning. The others will close soon.

"Until the river flows pick back up and the reservoirs replenish themselves, we will not be operating," said Nielson

It's going to take some time for those reservoirs to refill, and that means the plants will be turned off for a while. Experts estimate they likely won't be operating again until January or February.