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Obama visits Voith Siemens Hydro plant

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama visited Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation’s manufacturing plant Sept. 4 at York, Pa., touring the facility and adding hydropower to the list of renewables he said the nation needs to promote. The Illinois senator met with Voith Siemens employees gathered in the company’s parking lot for a 40-minute townhall-style meeting, surrounded by giant Voith Siemens turbines on trailers. Obama told workers the United States cannot “drill its way out” of an energy shortage. “And that’s where this facility comes in,” he said. “We’ve got to learn to harness clean, renewable energy. And that means solar, that means wind, that means biodiesel, and that means hydro.” President Mark Garner of Voith Siemens Hydro’s U.S. unit stressed to Obama that hydropower must be included in $150 billion the Democratic nominee said he would invest in renewable energy over the next decade. Obama said hydropower would be included in those investments.

McCain speech includes tidal energy

In accepting the Republican Party nomination for president Sept. 4, Sen. John McCain included tidal energy among the energy sources he promises to promote. “We will produce more energy at home,” McCain said in the St. Paul, Minn., convention center. “We will drill new wells offshore, and we’ll drill them now. We will build more nuclear power plants. We will develop clean coal technology. We will increase the use of wind, tide, solar, and natural gas.” While the Arizona Republican did not specifically mention hydropower during his speech, his campaign Internet site does include hydro in a statement of his position on renewables: “John McCain will encourage the market for alternative, low carbon fuels such as wind, hydro, and solar power.” The statement adds McCain “believes in an even-handed system of tax credits that will remain in place until renewable energy has progressed to the point that it is competitive with conventional energy sources.”

Plutonic, GE Financial pursue 1,000 MW

Plutonic Power Corp. and GE Energy Financial Services agreed to partner on a bid to develop more than 1,000 MW of hydroelectric capacity at 21 sites in the Upper Toba Valley and Bute Inlet along British Columbia’s southwestern coast. The companies said the joint investment, with capital costs of about C$4 billion (US$3.76 billion), would represent the largest single private sector investment in hydropower generation in Canada. The companies announced Aug. 14 the signing of a memorandum of understanding to partner on the projects. The Upper Toba Valley project is three sites with a capacity of 120 MW. The Bute Inlet project includes 18 sites with a capacity of 914 MW. The Bute project is north of Toba Valley, where Plutonic and GE Energy Financial already are partnering on the C$660 million (US$620.4 million) 123-MW East Toba River and 73-MW Montrose Creek project.

Trust to buy, remove Maine dams

Penobscot River Restoration Trust said it raised $25 million necessary to buy three hydropower projects on Maine’s Penobscot River from PPL Corp. and remove them. The trust plans to remove or decommission the dams to open nearly 1,000 miles of the river to Atlantic salmon and other migratory fish. PPL announced Aug. 21 it received the trust’s notice of intent to exercise an option to buy the dams, as provided by a 2004 salmon restoration agreement. PPL agreed to sell the three projects in exchange for provisions letting it improve its remaining hydropower projects on the river in order to retain more than 90 percent of its original generation. The sale is subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval. The non-profit trust plans to remove dams at 8-MW Veazie and 8-MW Great Works, and decommission the dam at 2-MW Howland. The trust said it plans to leave the Howland Dam in place and install a bypass channel for fish passage.

FERC contests minerals service ocean plan

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff urged the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) to back off plans to regulate ocean energy projects that FERC contends are within FERC’s regulatory jurisdiction. FERC staff commented in response to an MMS proposed rulemaking in which the minerals service maintains it is the lead federal agency for regulating ocean and tidal energy projects on the offshore Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The FERC staff filing recommends that MMS, an Interior Department agency, coordinate its efforts to regulate OCS projects with FERC’s ocean and tidal project regulatory program. FERC staff also urged MMS to refrain from issuing any rule that would: conflict with the Federal Power Act; interfere with the regulatory responsibilities of the commission and other agencies under that act; or frustrate the orderly development of hydropower projects on the OCS.

North Carolina to study 210-MW Yadkin

North Carolina’s Environmental Review Commission will study the effect of a 50-year relicense for Alcoa Power Generating Inc.’s 210-MW Yadkin hydroelectric project, which includes four powerhouses along a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River. Gov. Mike Easley signed a bill requiring the study July 28. The study will focus on water issues and add to other relicensing studies for the project conducted over the past five years, Alcoa said. The state commission will develop various proposals for the Yadkin River and include them in a report to the General Assembly due Feb. 1, 2009. The Environmental Review Commission could suggest the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission place conditions in a new license ranging from environmental restrictions to measures for local economic well being.

ESA changes would limit agency consultation

Proposed changes to rules implementing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) would let federal agencies such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determine whether federal actions are likely to jeopardize protected species, in some cases without the need to consult federal resource agencies. Current regulations implementing ESA Section 7 require federal agencies to consult with the Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service or the Department of Commerce’s NOAA Fisheries whenever a proposed federal action could affect a species or its critical habitat. The regulatory changes, proposed by the resource agencies, Interior and Commerce, would let federal agencies determine on their own if their actions are expected to “take” listed species or are likely to adversely affect listed species or their habitat. Federal agencies still would be required to engage in consultations if a proposed action is expected to cause death or injury to threatened or endangered species.

Canada provides funding to 41-MW Magpie

The government of Canada announced it will provide C$18 million (US$17.2 million) in incentives to the 41-MW Magpie hydroelectric project, on the Magpie River near Riviere-Saint-Jean, Québec. Natural Resources Canada Minister Gary Lunn said the money will come from the federal government’s C$1.48 billion (US$1.39 billion) ecoEnergy for Renewable Power Program. The program offers a financial incentive of 1 cent per kilowatt-hour produced by low-impact, renewable electricity projects for ten years after commissioning. Magpie is the first project in Québec to receive funding from the ecoEnergy for Renewable Power Initiative. The project is a joint venture between Hydromega Services and the Regional County Municipality of Minganie. In a separate announcement, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities said it would make a C$2.97 million (US$2.8 million) loan to Minganie from the federation’s Green Municipal Fund program.

Maine paper maker drops dam removal pact

Citing rising costs for dam removal, Sappi Fine Paper North America withdrew from an agreement to remove one dam, install fish lifts at another, and launch a trap-and-truck program to jump-start fish restoration in Maine’s Presumpscot River watershed. In the 2007 preliminary agreement, Sappi had agreed by 2011 to remove Cumberland Mills Dam, a non-power water control structure, the farthest dam 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 agreement had said they hoped the measures would trigger fish passage farther upstream at 800-kW Mallison Falls, 1-MW Little Falls, and 1.9-MW Gambo dams. “The company realized that the updated estimated costs of the dam removal would be significantly more, several million more, than previously estimated,” a spokesman said. In reaction, the state and environmental groups revived a campaign to mandate fish passage at Cumberland Mills.

Report backs 88-MW Holtwood Expansion

An environmental report prepared by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff recommends the commission approve the 88-MW Holtwood Expansion, an addition to the 107-MW Holtwood hydroelectric project on Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River. The draft environmental impact statement evaluates a proposal by PPL Holtwood LLC to amend its license for Holtwood. FERC staff said environmental measures proposed by the licensee, and modified by staff, would enhance upstream fish passage and adequately protect environmental resources. The expansion would involve building a new two-unit powerhouse on the site of a former coal-fired power plant adjacent to the ten-unit Holtwood powerhouse. Additionally, the project would be reconfigured to improve upstream fish passage, particularly for American shad. If PPL begins building the expansion in 2009 as planned, the $300 million project would begin generating electricity in 2012.

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