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Hydro Currents

Senate advances tax credit extension

The Senate endorsed a one-year extension of expiring production tax credits for renewable energy, including hydropower, by attaching the language to a bill to address the home mortgage market crisis. Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and John Ensign, R-Nev., amended the bill April 10 to extend the production tax credit in-service date for qualified hydro facilities and other renewables for one year, through Dec. 31, 2009. The amendment also would authorize another $400 million for the Clean Renewable Energy Bond program. Unlike previous attempts to extend the renewables incentives, the language did not attempt to repeal $18 billion in tax incentives for oil company investments in order to pay for the program. That language failed previously under threats of a Senate filibuster and a presidential veto. The House sent the bill to a conference committee, partly because the House objected to a lack of oil company tax hikes. Meanwhile, bipartisan leaders of the Senate Finance Committee introduced yet another bill including another one-year extension of the renewables incentives.

FERC member calls for 90,000 MW of hydro

Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is challenging the U.S. hydro industry to develop at least 90,000 MW of new hydropower by 2030, calling projections of a possible 23,000 MW of new hydro by 2025 too conservative. “I think 90,000 MW is possible. I think 23,000 MW by 2025 is not good enough,” Wellinghoff told the National Hydropower Association’s annual conference on April 15. A 2007 study by the Electric Power Research Institute found at least 23,000 MW of additional capacity, including hydrokinetic and wave energy, could be brought on line by 2025. Under a most optimistic scenario, the study estimated possible maximum development of 95,000 MW. “Ninety-five thousand megawatts of new hydro by 2030 is a goal we can achieve and one we can be proud of when we succeed,” Wellinghoff said.

Industry pushes for higher R&D funding

The National Hydropower Association (NHA) says the group is pursuing larger appropriations for the Department of Energy’s Water Power research and development program. NHA filed a request with congressional appropriators April 11, seeking $54 million for waterpower R&D in fiscal year 2009. The president’s proposed budget includes only $3 million for the program for that year, which begins Oct. 1, 2008. Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission told the NHA annual conference the hydro industry has opportunities to increase efficiencies and requires the assistance of the federal government to advance new technology designs.

U.S. funds advanced hydro technologies

The Department of Energy (DOE) seeks partnerships with U.S. industry for the testing, demonstration, and development of advanced waterpower technologies. Applications for funding are due June 16. DOE is offering $7.5 million in initial funding and up to $18.5 million over five years if appropriations are available. Congress approved $10 million to restart DOE’s dormant hydropower research and development program. Advanced waterpower technologies are those capable of generating electricity from: ocean waves; tides or ocean currents; free-flowing water in rivers, lakes, streams, or man-made channels; or other water-based resources, including an improvement in the efficiency or environmental performance of conventional hydropower, and electricity generation from differentials in ocean temperature. Applications for funding opportunity No. DE-PS36-08GO98030 must be obtained and submitted through the Internet site www. grants.gov. For information, contact Sara Wilson, Grant Officer, (1) 303-275-4955; E-mail: sara.wilson@go.doe.gov.

B.C. eyes 914-MW, 18-plant Bute Inlet

Plutonic Power Corp. submitted environmental documents in April to British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office for 18 run-of-river hydroelectric plants, in three interconnected groups, under the banner of a single project, 914-MW Bute Inlet. Eight plants are to be built in or near the Homathko River system, seven in the Southgate River system, and three in the Orford River system. The powerhouses could generate 3,000 gigawatt-hours annually and offset about 2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, Plutonic said.

Minerals service invites ocean research

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) designated five priority areas on the Outer Continental Shelf for alternative energy research including ocean energy projects. Within those areas, MMS said applications for six ocean current, two wave energy, and ten wind energy research projects might go forward. It called for comments to determine if there are any competitors or conflicting environmental or commercial factors at the sites, offshore of California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, and New Jersey. MMS chose proposed lease locations off the coast of Florida where Florida Atlantic University Center for Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology proposed ocean current projects. It also chose two proposed locations in northern California, offshore of Humboldt and Mendocino counties. They were nominated for energy resource assessment and technology testing of WaveConnect wave energy projects proposed by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

FERC EIS endorses 400-MW Iowa Hill

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff issued a final environmental impact statement (EIS) endorsing the relicensing of the 648-MW Upper American River project, including construction of a new 400-MW Iowa Hill pumped-storage development. The final EIS declares relicensing of Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s Upper American River project would fit well with a comprehensive plan for developing California’s Upper American River. The document examines relicensing of seven developments that make up the project as well as proposed construction of Iowa Hill. FERC staff said by issuing new licenses for the Upper American River project, with Iowa Hill, and Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s 7-MW Chili Bar project immediately downstream, the sites would be best adapted to development of the Upper American River.

TransCanada refines Slave River project

Two Alberta energy companies are refining the scope of a proposed hydroelectric project on the Slave River, saying it could be in the range of 1,200 to 1,300 MW. TransCanada and ATCO Power last year said they formed a joint venture, Slave River Hydro Development, to revive studies of building a project of about 1,800 MW on the Slave River in Alberta or Northwest Territories. The Slave River carries more than two-thirds of Alberta’s water flow north to Great Slave Lake in Northwest Territories. President Alex Pourbaix of TransCanada’s energy division now says the companies are in early planning stages for a run-of-river project, likely to be sited in remote northern Alberta. Pourbaix estimated the project would cost C$5 billion (US$4.9 billion).

Penalties proposed for fatal Cabin Creek fire

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed penalties totaling $1 million for alleged violations involved in a chemical fire that killed five workers inside a dewatered penstock at the 324-MW Cabin Creek pumped-storage project in Colorado. OSHA proposed $845,100 in penalties against a contractor, RPI Coating Inc. of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and $189,900 in proposed penalties against the owner, Public Service Co. of Colorado, doing business as Xcel Energy. OSHA issued citations for what it called serious and willful violations of federal workplace safety and health standards. Vapor from a solvent ignited inside the penstock, causing the 2007 fire.

EIS backs relicensing six N.C. plants

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an environmental impact statement (EIS) April 18 supporting the relicensing of two North Carolina projects containing six hydro plants totaling 319 MW. The EIS supports the relicensing proposals, with FERC staff modifications, of Alcoa Power Generating Inc.’s 210-MW Yadkin project on the Yadkin River and Progress Energy Carolina’s 109-MW Yadkin-Pee Dee project on the Pee Dee River. The project operators filed settlement agreements with stakeholders in 2007. Alcoa Power noted the EIS considered and rejected the alternative of a federal takeover of the projects, an option allowed by the Federal Power Act, but never implemented. At the request of the local Stanly County Commission, North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley wrote FERC April 4, urging the commission to extend Alcoa Power’s existing license for a year so Stanly County and the state could pursue taking ownership of the project away from Alcoa Power.

Pacts could resolve Snake River litigation

Proposed agreements between three U.S. agencies and four Columbia River Basin tribes could set aside the idea of breaching four federal hydropower projects on the lower Snake River for ten years. The proposals call for Bonneville Power Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Reclamation to make $900 million available over ten years for restoration of fish, particularly Columbia River Basin salmon and steelhead. The funds would be used to continue existing programs and to implement new priority fish projects with the tribes. For their part, the tribes would commit to accomplishing biological objectives with the funds. The agreement would resolve, for the parties involved, Endangered Species Act litigation pending before U.S. District Judge James Redden in Oregon. Environmental groups and one Indian tribe are not parties to the agreements.


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