Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wind, Water, Farms and Power Generation

Earlier, I wrote on a plan to divert a portion of the Missouri River, pump it uphill and 800 miles into the tributaries of the Colorado River to supply water and power to California.

My proposed National Excess Water Transport Aqueduct Project (NEWTAP) will go a long way to solving a couple of problems. First, and obviously, is the chronic water shortage in California and other western states, and flooding along the Missouri. Second, what to do with wind power in the Plains when the power demand is in the big cities (the lack of transmission lines problem).

As I wrote earlier: “One possibility on the national level is a water transfer system from the Missouri River at Kansas City, that runs approximately 800 miles southwest to the continental divide in New Mexico, just south of Interstate 40. From there the water would flow into tributaries of the Colorado River. The hydroelectric plants are already in place on Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam. Therefore, some of the power required to pump the water uphill and 800 miles would be recovered. The elevation change is on the order of 6,000 feet.

The water route will be through the U.S.’ great wind corridor, so it is conceivable to use windmills to provide energy to the pumps.

A further improvement on this plan is to also divert a portion of the upper Mississippi River west and into the National Water Transport Project. One possibility is a 150-mile canal due west along US route 36 from Hannibal to St. Joseph. This would allow a water flow of approximately 2,000 cubic feet per second, or more.

The water transfer to the Colorado River would eliminate the need for power transmission lines, because power would be generated at Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam, then sent to Southern California or elsewhere through existing transmission lines. Thus, there would be some savings by not having to build power transmission lines to connect the wind-generators to cities.

A useful means of storing excess wind-generated power is to pump water uphill for later use in hydroelectric plants when the power is needed. This trans-continental, uphill waterway would do exactly that, storing the water in Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

I see no technical reasons why this would not work. Crossing existing creeks, rivers, highways, railroads, and hills, can all be done. However, on the legal and environmental side, there are more difficulties. There is a water-rights legal issue of transferring water from one water basin into another. This plan would transfer water from the Missouri water basin across a couple of other basins and into the Colorado water basin. Then there are the eminent domain issues to acquire the right-of-way. This is not a problem, if the governments decree the project is in the public interest. In practice, though, such decrees at times generate public hostility. Finally, the environmental issues are rather large. One can envision the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) for an 800-mile canal crossing several states!

Still, such a project would be of ultimate good. The money spent would provide employment for thousands, and for many years. The energy generated by the windmills would be recovered (at least in part), which is in line with the “Generate Green” movement. That is far better than building a few nuclear power plants. And the water would go to good use, irrigating farms to feed the U.S. and the world.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. Legal website is here.


Roger E. Sowell said...

Now would be a good time to be pumping water from the Mississippi River into the Colorado River. St. Louis is at or near flood stage, and the Mississippi would be better for sending a percentage of the flow to California.

Roger Vaughan Carr said...

A grand vision, Roger!
It excites the pioneer in me, and I am certain would equally inspire young people to "Go West!" in search of adventure useful to all of us if you can lever it past the doomers and gloomers.

Roger E. Sowell said...

Mr. Carr,

Thank you for the support! This could create a series of small lakes, each a bit higher than the last, with windmills pumping the water up out of a lake and into the canal. I wrote to Energy Secretary Chu and Interior Secretary Salazar, but have no response thus far.