Chelan PUD Grapples with Increasing Electricity Demand in Stehekin Community
Chelan PUD is still grappling with Stehekin's growing energy demand, with capacity projected to peak between 2024 and 2026.
Stehekin is an isolated upper valley small town community near Lake Chelan, with their energy grid completely separate from the rest of Chelan County.
Chelan PUD has been working to expand the Stehekin community’s power grid since 2018.
Stehekin’s energy system comes from both hydro and diesel generators, which has a total capacity of 255 kilowatts, primarily powered by the 180-kilowatt hydro plant.
In a 2020 Chelan PUD study, they project that if Stehekin's annual energy loads surpass 160 kilowatts, their energy grid would be incapable of providing enough energy by 2027 at the latest.
Chelan PUD claims that the increase in energy usage is due to a rise in vacation home renting, residents switching from wood burning to electric/water heating, and the overall growth of the Stehekin community.
In the 2020 Decennial Census, there were 142 residents living in Stehekin, with 209 housing units. This is actually 10 residents less than a decade prior, and had 278 housing units in 2010.
Back in September, Chelan PUD board of commissioners discussed replacing the diesel generator with either a $550,000 150 kilowatt propane generator or a $500,000 150 kilowatt diesel generator.
Chelan PUD Energy Development and Conservation Manager Andrew Grassell said those bids were more costly than they were anticipating.
"The community of Stehekin knows about this and they have historically been really good partners and helping us try to lower energy as much as they can," Grassell said. "But this is a challenge for us and we're looking at trying to see how we can meet at the most cost-effective way possible."
The third and cheaper option was to shift water heater use during peak demand time periods, which would cost $190,000.
At this time, Chelan PUD is currently investigating their options.