Posted: Jan 23, 2013 4:42 PM by KBZK with Adam Bell reporting
Updated: Jan 24, 2013 3:36 AM
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK - Being energy efficient at home could save you some money, but imagine trying to do so in Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone is harnessing hydropower, again.
The first time it did this was in 1903 when the U.S. Cavalry installed the first 100-kilowatt water turbine generator near Mammoth Hot Springs . Now, a new Mammoth micro hydro plant is up and running.
The plant relies on naturally-occurring water dynamics. It captures energy from the water that flows approximately 560 feet downhill from the combined Gardner River, Panther Creek and Indian Creek water intakes on Swan Lake Flats to the existing storage reservoir at Mammoth's water treatment plant.
"If you were to lift this cover up you would see this wheel. It's got a bunch of buckets on it, and when water hits those buckets then the wheels spin around," YNP mechanical engineer Peter Galindo explained. "It's clean, renewable energy, and it's relatively cheap to install."
The challenge in this project was not construction but how to build something like this without disturbing nature.
"The last thing we want to do is build something that's going to mar the incredible scenery," YNP Deputy Superintendent Steven Iobst said.
By adding the plant, the electricity added goes directly into the already existing NorthWestern Energy grid.
The power plant was officially brought on line last December.
The new power plant is capable of producing 230 kilowatt hours. The park says that's roughly enough power to run a third of the park service operations in Mammoth.