By Jody Lawrence-Turner
Glenn Phillips is a water-power cowboy.
Faded, discolored pictures depict the Northport, Wash., man’s tale of building one of the first privately owned and operated miniature hydroelectric power plants.
They show him digging in a ravine. One shows him stringing cable for a tram that hauled materials. More chronicle how he built a power house at the bottom of a 140-foot waterfall.
Now 82 years old, Phillips displays each photo in hands weathered by hard work as his family harnessed nature.
“I knew there had to be an easier way to make a living than logging and raising cattle,” said Phillips, flashing a surly grin.
The Northwest is rich with water-generated electricity; big, wild rivers have been tamed by some of the world’s mightiest dams.
And yet the region is home to an impressive array of small projects, too. Some can fetch their owners $20,000 a month.
Washington, Idaho and Oregon are home to at least 95 of these miniature operations, according to the Foundation for Water and Energy Education, located in Spokane. There are hundreds more across the country. Together they form an industry worth tens of millions of dollars. Read more