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Hydro Currents

House passes hydro incentives

The U.S. House passed energy bills Aug. 4 that would extend a production tax credit for renewables, including some hydro; make improvements to a Clean Renewable Energy Bond program for public power systems; and adopt a national renewables portfolio standard. A conference committee will meet to reconcile the House bills with Senate legislation, which lacks such language. The House bills would extend production tax credits for renewable energy facilities for four years. They also would authorize $2 billion for the Clean Renewable Energy Bond program, which provides incentives, similar to the production tax credit, for non-taxpaying public utilities that develop renewable energy projects. The renewables portfolio standard language calls for utilities to generate 15 percent of their power from renewables by 2020. Ocean and tidal resources and incremental hydropower would be eligible under the renewables portfolio standard. The legislation also would allow utilities to deduct the hydro they already generate from their generation bases when figuring their renewables portfolio obligation.

Morgan Stanley invests in Lake Elsinore

Financial services firm Morgan Stanley Commodities agreed to become principal investor in the 500-MW Lake Elsinore pumped-storage and transmission project being developed in California by Nevada Hydro Co. Nevada Hydro said Aug. 6 that the Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped-Storage (LEAPS) project awaits final licensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and final approvals from California in order to begin construction. Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District and Nevada Hydro applied in 2004 for a license to build and operate the project. FERC issued a final environmental impact statement Jan. 30 supporting construction of the project and 32-mile transmission line. Nevada Hydro said the deal with Morgan Stanley creates LEAPS Hydro LLC, for the purpose of building, owning, and operating $1.1 billion Lake Elsinore, which Nevada Hydro called the first major hydroelectric project to be constructed in the United States in 20 years.

FERC approves rebuilding 408-MW Taum Sauk

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorized utility AmerenUE to begin rebuilding the breached upper reservoir of the 408-MW Taum Sauk pumped-storage project in eastern Missouri. Taum Sauk has not operated since the reservoir’s ring dam breached Dec. 14, 2005, releasing 1.4 billion gallons of water down the Black River, injuring nine people, and damaging property. The utility proposes to begin reconstruction in 2007 and return Taum Sauk to service in 2009. AmerenUE said the dam would be rebuilt using roller-compacted concrete and would follow current dam design and construction practice. AmerenUE included safety features such as a crest elevation in excess of the highest anticipated water level. It also proposed an overflow release structure to protect against damage to the dam in the unlikely event that redundant control systems fail.

Ontario to double renewables procurement

Ontario announced plans to procure an additional 2,000 MW of generation from renewables, including hydropower. Ontario Power Authority (OPA) is to procure the first 500 MW by the end of 2007, all from projects that are greater than 10 MW. OPA is to initiate consultations with First Nations, the renewable energy industry, and other stakeholders to set timelines and to determine how the power will be procured. The Ministry of Energy said the new procurement would bring renewables capacity acquired by the present government to more than 4,000 MW. During the past four years, the government signed contracts to buy from 18 projects through two requests for proposals that will generate more than 1,300 MW from renewables, including hydro. It also launched a Standard Offer Program for renewables, signing more than 100 contracts for more than 500 MW of distributed generation from renewables.

FERC proposes hydrokinetics licensing

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposed a new licensing process for ocean and other hydrokinetic energy pilot projects that could allow developers to complete licensing in as little as six months. Pilot project licenses would be available for projects that are: 5 MW or less; removable or able to shut down on short notice; outside of waters with sensitive designations; and operated for the purpose of testing new technologies or determining sites for such projects. Licenses would be short term, perhaps five years, and developers could generate electricity while testing. At the end of the period, the developer could apply for a standard 30- to 50-year license or decommission and restore the site.

California governor calls for new dams

With the 424-MW San Luis Dam in the background, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger renewed his call for California to issue $5.9 billion in water bonds, including $4.5 billion to build two new dams in a comprehensive water storage and conveyance system. “We have to build, we cannot anymore procrastinate,” Schwarzenegger said, noting California’s population is expected to grow to 60 million people by 2050 from today’s 37 million. “We don’t need another study to tell us that California needs water storage, we don’t need another commission,” he said. “We can’t keep kicking that can down the alley. We have been doing this for 20 or 30 years now.” The governor proposed that some bond revenue be used to build Sites Dam and Reservoir in Colusa County, northwest of Sacramento, and Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir, in Fresno County near Friant Dam. California Senate Democrats oppose building the dams.

Idaho: Ruling backs Columbia “biop”

Armed with a case from the Supreme Court, the state of Idaho is asking a federal appeals court to reinstate a 2004 biological opinion that said operation of 14 Columbia Basin hydro projects does not jeopardize salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The state asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear a decision that rejected NOAA Fisheries’ 2004 Columbia Basin biological opinion as a violation of the ESA. The 9th Circuit upheld a lower court that said the “biop” was flawed because it found “no jeopardy” to salmon. Idaho argued the lower court ruling conflicts with a recent Supreme Court decision, National Association of Homebuilders v. Defenders of Wildlife. In that case, the Supreme Court declared the ESA’s “no jeopardy” requirement applies only to discretionary agency actions, and not to actions an agency is required by law to undertake. Idaho argued the Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation have a mandate from Congress to operate the projects for flood control, navigation, irrigation, and power generation, and cannot be prohibited by the ESA from complying with that mandate.

Chelan PUD seeks clean energy bonds

Chelan County Public Utility District declared its intent Aug. 13 to use federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds to help finance modernization of the 48-MW Lake Chelan and 623.2-MW Rock Island hydroelectric projects. The district applied to the Internal Revenue Service for authority to issue $37.7 million in bonds, $26.6 million for Lake Chelan and $11.1 million for Rock Island. Chelan County’s applications are competing with other applications for $400 million in new bonding authority available for renewable energy projects in a second phase of the Clean Renewable Energy Bond program authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

FERC EIS backs Spokane River relicensing

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an environmental impact statement (EIS) recommending the relicensing of five hydro developments, totaling 137.65 MW, on the Spokane River in Washington and Idaho. The EIS recommends relicensing the four-plant, 122.9-MW Spokane River project and the 14.75-MW Post Falls project as proposed by licensee Avista Utilities, with FERC staff modifications. Staff recommendations include erosion and sediment control, improved water quality and quantity, improvement to anadromous and resident fish habitat, and recreation facility upgrades. While FERC is not allowed to modify or reject mandatory license conditions imposed by the Department of Interior, the EIS recommended relicensing Post Falls without the mandatory conditions. The EIS found Post Falls to be uneconomic to continue operating. However, FERC generally allows a licensee to make its own business decision whether to continue operating a project that appears to be uneconomic.

Presumpscot pact provides dam removal

Sappi Fine Paper North America agreed to remove one dam, install fish lifts at another, and launch a trap-and-truck program to jump-start restoration of native sea-run species on Maine’s Presumpscot River watershed. Sappi agreed to remove Cumberland Mills Dam, a non-power water control structure, the farthest downstream on the Presumpscot near Westbrook. It also agreed to install fish lifts at 1.35-MW Saccarappa Dam, the next dam upstream. Parties to the preliminary agreement said they hope the measures will trigger fish passage farther upstream at 800-kW Mallison Falls, 1-MW Little Falls, and 1.9-MW Gambo dams. Sappi, a unit of S.D. Warren Co.; Maine’s Department of Marine Resources; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; American Rivers; and Friends of the Presumpscot River could reach a final settlement by year’s end.

Pact paves way for nine-plant relicensing

Duke Energy Carolinas LLC surrendered its hydropower license for the 225-kW Dillsboro project, as agreed in settlements to relicense nine hydro developments in North Carolina totaling 97.8 MW. The nine other developments are part of six projects still in the relicensing process. Duke and stakeholders crafted the agreements over three years to resolve environmental issues associated with relicensing the 43.2-MW Nantahala, 26.175-MW East Fork, 24.6-MW West Fork, 980-kW Bryson, 1.04-MW Franklin, and 1.8-MW Mission projects. Surrender of the Dillsboro license and removal of its dam will open 9.5 miles of the river to aquatic resources.

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