FERC sees biggest hydro filings in decade
With a background of federal and state incentives, advancement of new kinetic technologies, and higher oil prices, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has logged applications for more than 10,000 MW of new hydropower. “We have not seen this level of interest in more than a decade,” Kim Nguyen of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects told commissioners. Pending applications would increase conventional hydropower capacity by 430 MW and pumped-storage capacity by 900 MW, Nguyen said. Other projects in the pre-filing stage could add nearly 450 MW from conventional hydro and 2,785 MW from pumped storage. In addition, more than 6,000 MW is being proposed from hydrokinetic projects.
Senate fails to extend production tax credits
The Senate failed June 10 to muster sufficient votes to advance a House-passed bill that would extend expiring production tax credits for renewable energy, including hydropower, and authorize another $2 billion for Clean Renewable Energy Bonds. The Senate voted 50-44, ten votes short of the 60 needed votes to prevent a threatened filibuster. Senators objected to other provisions, including tax increases to offset the cost of the renewables incentives. The House passed the bill May 21, 263-160. The bill included a three-year extension for “incremental” hydro: efficiency improvements or capacity additions to existing hydro projects, and the addition of hydropower generation to existing non-hydropower water resources facilities. It also included irrigation hydropower of less that 5 MW. The bill also would add ocean, tidal, in-stream hydrokinetic, and conduit waterpower to the list of eligible renewables.
BC Hydro consults on 900-MW Site C
BC Hydro opened stakeholder consultations on development of the 900-MW Peace River Site C hydro project in British Columbia. The utility is to combine consultation responses with technical and financial data to refine project design. It also will use feedback to help define the scope of environmental, technical, and other studies. The utility is to consult in two rounds with the public and stakeholders on effects, benefits, and features of Site C. A report released in December estimated a capital cost of C$5 billion to C$6.6 billion (US$4.98 billion to US$6.57 billion).
Andritz to acquire GE Hydro assets
Austria-based technology group Andritz announced it agreed with General Electric of the United States to buy certain assets of GE Energy’s Hydro business. Terms were not disclosed. Andritz said it would acquire GE Energy’s hydropower technology and certain other assets, including engineering and project management resources, research and development capabilities, and specialized generator component production facilities in Canada. It said the activities have a total staff of about 200. Andritz said the GE Hydro assets would compliment its existing portfolio of Francis-type turbines and generators of 400 MW or more. The company said it expects to increase its hydropower presence in North America and emerging markets. Andritz, a leader in production systems for pulp and paper, steel, and other specialized industries, moved fully into hydropower in 2006 with the acquisition of another major hydropower equipment manufacturer, VA Tech Hydro, from Siemens Austria.
New Columbia Basin opinion keeps dams
NOAA Fisheries issued a final biological opinion for operating the Columbia Basin hydro system May 5, declaring that breaching four lower Snake River dams is not necessary to protect and recover threatened salmon. U.S. District Judge James Redden voided NOAA Fisheries’ previous “biop,” the 2004 opinion, which found “no jeopardy” to salmon and steelhead listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Should the new opinion fail to meet his expectations, Redden has warned he could order removal of the dams, totaling 3,065 MW. NOAA Fisheries said breaching all four could, at best, help four of 13 salmon and steelhead species. However, it said breaching the dams would adversely affect navigation, cultural resources, and recreation. It also would eliminate power generation and could increase carbon emissions from non-hydro replacement power. Members of the environmentalist dam removal lobby criticized the biop because it did not consider dam removal.
FERC staff backs licensing Ohio River project
An environmental assessment prepared by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff recommends licensing the 105-MW Meldahl hydroelectric project proposed for the Ohio River near Augusta, Ky. The city of Hamilton, Ohio, seeks a license for the project, which would be built at the Corps of Engineers’ Captain Anthony Meldahl Locks and Dam. FERC staff evaluated natural resource benefits, environmental effects, and economic costs. Meldahl is expected to generate 489 gigawatt-hours annually for Hamilton’s municipal electric system.
Hydro eligible for utility calls for power
Hydropower is an eligible source of electricity in several utility solicitations for renewable or all-source power. Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) seeks proposals by Aug. 13 for renewables including hydropower. For information, see the APS Internet site, www.aps.com/rfp. Progress Energy Florida seeks bids by Aug. 12 for 1,200 MW of all-source power, including hydro and ocean projects. For information, see the Progress Energy Internet site, www.progress-energy.com/PEF2013RFP. Idaho Power Co. seeks bids by Oct. 17 for 250 to 600 MW, including hydro. For information, see the Idaho Power website, www.idahopower.com/ aboutus/business/rfp. PacifiCorp is preparing a request for proposals for renewable energy up to 500 MW, including wave, tidal, and some conventional hydropower. The solicitation is to be issued upon approval by regulators in its multi-state Pacific Northwest service area. For information, see PacifiCorp’s Internet site, www.pacificorp.com.
State challenges FERC conditional kinetic license
The state of Washington is appealing the nation’s first hydrokinetic project license, arguing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) may not issue a “conditional” license before obtaining state permits and authorizations. FERC issued a conditioned license in December 2007 to Finavera Renewables Ocean Energy Ltd. for the 1-MW Makah Bay Offshore Pilot Project in Washington. Unlike standard hydro licenses, which cannot be issued until all permits and authorizations are submitted by resource agencies, FERC plans to issue conditional hydrokinetic project licenses quickly, without waiting for other agency authorizations. However, the hydrokinetic licenses are to be conditioned to prevent a licensee from actually starting construction until it obtains those authorizations. In March, FERC denied rehearing requests by the Washington Department of Ecology, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, and the Makah Tribe. FERC responded that it had the authority and that the challenge was moot, because the state issued necessary permits in February. Ecology filed an appeal in May with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
U.S. to fund Western renewables zones
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) plans to spend up to $2.3 million on an effort by 11 U.S. states, one Mexican state, and two Canadian provinces to identify zones of renewable energy resources, including hydroelectric and hydrokinetic power. Subject to annual appropriations over three years, DOE is to support the Western Renewable Energy Zones project under an agreement with the Western Governors Association. DOE said the program is to identify concentrations of viable renewable sources throughout the Western Interconnection grid system to benefit renewable energy developers, utilities, transmission providers, and state regulators. It said the program should lead to better-informed decisions on the costs of renewable power, and to development and siting of infrastructure, such as grid access, to support renewable energy.
New Brunswick awards Bay of Fundy tidal sites
New Brunswick awarded leases to Irving Oil Ltd. to explore the feasibility of tidal power development at 11 sites in Canada’s Bay of Fundy. Irving Oil, a regional refining and marketing company based in New Brunswick, will partner with Huntsman Marine Science Centre of St. Andrews for a two-year research program of potential generating sites, all near the bay’s north shore. The Bay of Fundy lies between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and is the site of the highest tides in the world. Sites to be studied include Head Harbour Passage and Western Passage areas of Passamaquoddy Bay, the Cape Enrage area near Chignecto Bay, and the Cape Spencer area near St. John. Sampling and survey work will be conducted by boat-mounted and floating stationary equipment. Irving Oil said it submitted the project in response to a request for proposals for tidal power research issued in January. Nova Scotia also is supporting tidal power development in the Bay of Fundy.
Plane crash claims former Reclamation head
Memorial services were held in Utah, Idaho, and Washington, D.C., for former Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner John Keys III who was killed in a plane crash in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Keys, 66, was piloting the plane, which crashed in the Needles District of the national park the morning of May 30. The crash killed a second man, identified as Gary Kramer, 49, Scottsdale, Ariz. Reclamation Commissioner Robert Johnson informed employees of the crash June 2. Johnson succeeded Keys as head of the Interior Department agency in 2006. Keys is survived by his wife, Dell, and their daughters, Cathy and Robyn. President Bush appointed Keys the bureau’s 16th commissioner in 2001.
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