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AMP breaks ground on Ohio River hydro plant

Off the banks of the Ohio River near this small Kentucky town, a crane and its giant metal claw are busy placing several tons of rocks and boulders on the river bottom.

The cofferdam construction marks the beginning of what will be one of the largest deployments of new hydropower generation in the United States. Federal, state and local officials, including Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, gathered here to break ground on American Municipal Power's hydroelectric plant at the Cannelton Locks and Dam.

The 84-MW project is the first of five run-of-the-river hydro plants AMP plans to build on the Ohio River. Altogether, the five plants will be able to generate more than 350 MW of renewable power.

"What a valuable and huge asset that river is for the Commonwealth of Kentucky," Beshear said. "It can play such a huge role in the development of all our counties and cities lying along."

The $416 million Cannelton project will be completed in 2013 and employ between 200 and 400 people during construction. York, Pa.-based Voith Hydro is providing the turbines and generators for the project and MWH is providing design and engineering services.

Mark Gerken, AMP's chief executive officer, touted the benefits of hydropower, saying it is more reliable and affordable than other forms of renewable energy. What's more, hydro plants run at 65 percent capacity on average, well above the 25 percent average for wind and the 10 percent average for solar, Gerken said during the formal groundbreaking ceremony.

"This is why this is just the first of five hydroelectric projects," he said. "Our goal is to provide a balanced and responsible power supply portfolio for our members – a portfolio that will allow them to have 23 percent of their power come from renewable resources (by 2015)."

Cannelton Dam

Construction of a cofferdam at the Cannelton Dam

AMP provides power to 128 electric systems serving more than 570,000 customers in Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, and West Virginia.

"In this part of the country, it is clear that hydroelectric generation is superior to other renewable technologies," Gerken said. "The ability to schedule this energy predictably a day ahead is superior to wind and solar as well."

AMP already operates a 42-MW hydro plant on the Ohio River near Belleville, W.V. The other four AMP projects are: 105-MW Meldahl, 48-MW Robert C. Byrd, 72-MW Smithland, and 35-MW Willow Island. AMP also is working with Tri-Cities Power Authority on a feasibility study for the 25.8-MW Bluestone Dam on the New River in West Virginia.

"Here in the Midwest, if you're talking alternate energy sources, hydro is going to fit into that mix," said AMP Chairman John Bisher. "Our goal is to produce the most reliable power at the lowest possible cost."

The five Ohio River hydro projects planned by AMP shows that there are plenty of opportunities to increase hydropower capacity in the United States, said Linda Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association.

"The biggest challenge we have is the myth that we're tapped out," Ciocci said. "There are a lot of people who generally feel that we can't build anymore hydro in this country because all the best sites are taken."

The industry estimates it could double U.S. hydropower production by 2030. "But that's only going to happen if they start changing some of the policies in Washington," Ciocci said. "We need a more expedited licensing process for projects like pumped storage. Pumped storage is really key to our future."

Ciocci said America is on the verge of a hydropower renaissance, as utilities prepare to meet new regulations designed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas scientists have linked to global warming.

Congress has recognized hydropower in new legislation requiring utilities to produce a certain amount of their power from renewable resources, Ciocci said.

"I think there is, as we move forward, a real understanding of the value these projects bring," she said.

Hydropower accounts for 6 percent of the nation's electricity consumption and nearly 75 percent of all renewable power, according to the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy. But just 3 percent of the nation's more than 82,000 dams generate electricity.

Utility executives are taking a hard look at hydropower as Congress considers legislation establishing limits on carbon emissions and requirements for the production of renewable power, Ciocci said.

Waterpower XVI attracts record crowd

The Waterpower XVI Conference and Exhibition, held July 27-30, 2009, in Spokane, Wash., expanded upon the new roles for hydro in a changing world. The event marked a record-setting event for the hydropower industry, with 2,149 attendees representing 43 countries, and 289 exhibitors. The international conference is the premier technical forum for professionals of the hydroelectric industry.

The Waterpower conference's opening plenary session featured short addresses from Scott Morris and Phil Moeller. Morris is chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Avista Corporation. Moeller serves as commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The opening session also featured three lively keynote speakers who addressed the global trends most likely to shape our energy future. They covered energy resources, markets, and politics.

Thomas W. O'Donnell, a nuclear physicist with The New School for Social Research, explored the world's primary energy resources and how they're changing.

Michael Toman, an international economics expert at Johns Hopkins University, covered the forces that shape worldwide energy markets and the trends which are emerging.

Peter Kemp, editorial director in London for Energy Intelligence, enlightened attendees on the political situations applicable to energy resource exploitation.

In the closing plenary session, author and environmentalist Trevor Turpin, director of Nicholas Pearson Associates, entertained the audience with excerpts from his book, Dams: the Battleground of Sustainable Development, and his more than 35 years of experience in the water industry.

The conference featured more than 250 speakers in a myriad of symposiums, technical paper presentations, briefings, and a special three-day Hydro Basics training.

During Waterpower, the Hydro Training Institute offered its Hydro Basics course. This course, taught by industry experts, provided employees who are new to hydro an overview of hydropower, hydraulic structures, hydro equipment, the power system, regulation and environmental stewardship. More than 70 individuals participated in the course.

Waterpower XVI

Waterpower XVI attracted more than 2,100 attendees and 289 exhibitors from 43 countries.

Attendees also took part in additional workshops, technical hydro plant tours, and professional meetings co-located at the event.

The Waterpower exhibition featured products and services from 289 companies.

Waterpower XVI is owned by PennWell Corporation; flagship media sponsors were Hydro Review and HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide magazines. PennWell's next hydro event in North America is HydroVision International, July 27-30, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina USA. To learn more, visit www.hydroevent.com.

FERC staff recommends new license for Smith Mountain

Staff of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has endorsed the relicensing of Appalachian Power Co.'s 636-MW pumped storage project on the Roanoke River in southern Virginia.

The proposed relicensing of the Smith Mountain project does not call for adding capacity. FERC staff approved the proposal "with some recommended modifications to the proposed management plans."

The proposal requires Appalachian Power, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, to implement the following: a water management plan, an erosion and sedimentation monitoring plan, a water quality monitoring plan, a habitat management plan, and an aquatic vegetation management plan.

The two-dam project serves as a peaking facility. During off-peak periods, water that passes through Smith Mountain Dam into Leesville Lake is pumped back into Smith Mountain Lake, where it can be used again to generate electricity.

According to FERC, the proposal "would provide nearly optimal habitat for the species of concern in the Roanoke River, mainly blackbass and striped bass."

Battle brewing over bill to remove Snake River dams

Four Snake River dams, with hydroelectric powerhouses capable of producing more than 3,000 MW, could be dismantled under legislation designed to protect salmon and steelhead populations. The bill, introduced by Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., calls for an independent and comprehensive study of the environmental, economic, and salmon restoration effects of removing the four dams in southeastern Washington. The dams and their massive turbines are driving some species of salmon toward extinction, McDermott said.

"The extinction of several species of salmon is not theoretical," he said. "Within the next 10 years, several species of Snake River salmon are expected to disappear forever unless we act now to restore and protect salmon and steelhead across the Pacific Northwest." But Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., has vowed to fight the legislation, saying it would kill jobs and eliminate an abundant source of clean, renewable energy. Hastings is the highest ranking Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee.

"Dam removal is an extreme action that would have devastating consequences on our region's economy," Hastings said. "And there's no scientific proof that it would actually guarantee salmon recovery." Hastings noted that the vast majority of the bill's 23 co-sponsors serve districts far from the Pacific Northwest. Similar proposals have been rejected before, Hastings said. "Yet dam removal extremists continue their lawsuits, their fundraising campaigns, and their fight to spoil agreement on policies that will actually recover fish in the Northwest."

Lufkin acquires Rotating Machinery Technology

Lufkin Industries Inc. acquired Rotating Machinery Technology Inc. (RMT) of Wellsville, New York.

RMT, a longtime supplier for Lufkin, designs and manufactures custom-engineered tilting-pad bearings and related components for high-speed turbo equipment.

Lufkin sells and maintains power transmission products and sells and maintains foundry castings.

Tax credits sought in Vermont, New Hampshire

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) certified renewable energy production tax credits for the 4-MW North Hartland hydroelectric project on the Ottauquechee River in Windsor County, Vt.

North Hartland LLC, licensee for North Hartland, sought certification for efficiency improvements achieved from modifying a penstock and control system, and from other work involving interconnection equipment, and a turbine and generator cooling system.

FERC certified incremental generation totaling 1,116 megawatt-hours.

In another pursuit for U.S. tax credits, hydropower operator TransCanada is asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to certify efficiency improvements at its 140.4-MW Comerford hydroelectric plant in New Hampshire as eligible for renewable energy production tax credits.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 amended the Internal Revenue Code to apply a production tax credit to incremental production gains from efficiency improvements or capacity additions to existing hydropower facilities placed in service after Aug. 8, 2005, and before Jan. 1, 2014.

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