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Ames Hydro Generating Station

Ames Hydro Generating Station

Ames is a hydroelectric generating plant located near historic Ophir, Colo.


Location: Near historic Ophir, Colo., in the Illium Valley.

Plant Description: Ames is a hydroelectric generating station.

Power Production Capabilities: The plant has one unit capable of producing 3.75 MW.

Fuel Source: Water from the Trout Fork drainage of the San Miguel River is stored in Trout Lake and additional storage in a high altitude reservoir, Lake Hope. A second diversion provides water from the Howard's Fork of the San Miguel River.

Plant History

The original project was constructed in 1891. The current powerhouse was built and operational in 1906. The plant was part of the acquisition of Colorado Ute properties by Public Service Company of Colorado, a predecessor to Xcel Energy, in 1992.

Ames Hydro played an important role in the history of electricity. It was the site of the first use of alternating current, (or AC power), generated, transmitted and sold for industrial purposes in the world. L.L. Nunn and George Westinghouse applied the alternating current theories of Nikola Tesla to generate electricity at Ames Hydro and provide power to the Gold King Mine. At the time, the plant was owned by the first electric utility in the country. The project spurred the creation of the first Engineering School dealing with alternating current in Telluride, Colo., and led to many innovations in electrical generation and lightning protection.

Interesting Features

The success of the Ames Hydro project made alternating current electricity the type used in our homes and businesses to this day. Two turbines power the generator; each supplied from separate diversions of the San Miguel River.

Environmental Highlights

With water as its only fuel, Ames Hydro has no air, land or water emissions.

Community Involvement

 Each year Ames Hydro provides tours to area colleges and local schools. It is a popular destination for historians and historical groups.

For more information:

Colorado Plant Information and Tour Request
Colorado Media Inquiries
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