Char-Koosta News

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Séliš Ksanka QÍispé Dam generates electricity for Montana and beyond

By Alyssa Kelly
Char-Koosta News

Energy Keepers Inc director of power management Travis Togo discussed the business of hydroelectric power during a Polson Chamber of Commerce luncheon. (Alyssa Kelly photo) Energy Keepers Inc director of power management Travis Togo discussed the business of hydroelectric power during a Polson Chamber of Commerce luncheon. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

POLSON – While many local businesses rely on the Flathead waterways to attract customers over the summer vacation season, Energy Keepers, Inc (EKI) relies on its downstream flows to harness energy and generate electricity at the Séliš Ksanka QÍispé (SKQ) Dam, which is sold on the wholesale market.

“We’re an independent power producer,” EKI director of power manager Travis Togo said. “That means we not only produce energy–we also distribute and market it.”

“What we are doing in Polson is important for the entire state,” Togo said. “Not only is CSKT the only tribe in the nation to own and operate its own hydroelectric facility, huge volumes of commodities are moving in and out of the community.”

The three-unit facility can produce up to 194 megawatts of electricity. Togo said the SKQ Dam supplies electricity for half of Montana’s 21 largest energy consumers–including an oil refinery, a healthcare facility, a rock-mining facility, and a data analysis center.

Although most business is conducted in Montana, surplus energy produced by the dam has been sold throughout the country–including the MGM Grand Resort in Las Vegas and throughout California. “We’re seeing a trend of people outside of Montana wanting to purchase electricity from us because it’s renewable,” Togo said “The energy we produce is 100 percent carbon-free; no emission.”

The US Energy Information Administration reports that hydroelectricity is the second largest source of energy consumed in Montana at 109 trillion British Thermal Units (BTU). Coal continues to hold the number one spot at 175 trillion BTU. “Its taking Montana a little longer to catch up but we’re confident that the state’s renewable energy market will grow in the near future,” Togo said.

Venturing into the business of hydroelectric power requires 24 hour monitoring of an ever-changing financial market and equally unstable weather conditions. “Natural gas is having a huge impact on the energy market right now,” Togo said. “We have people working to lock in the value of our contracts on a daily basis. Today our electricity is worth $22 an hour. Our weekend projection from Thursday until Sunday is $6.50 an hour. It’s always changing.”

Togo said weather conditions over the past three-years have been record breaking with spring 2015 experiencing almost “no rainfall,” and fall 2016 seeing a 300 percent increase in average rainfall. “I get a lot of calls about the lake being too full or not full enough but I can assure you the lake is fine,” he said. “We monitor how full the water ways are because it determines the flow– which determines how much electricity the dam can produce. We monitor everything very closely and the lake should be at full capacity by June.”

Togo presented on the Selis Ksanka and Qlispe (SKQ) Dam operations for a recent Polson Chamber of Commerce luncheon. The group is an association made up of business owners and representatives in the Polson area who meet on a regular basis to discuss marketing strategies and local economic conditions.

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