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Breaking News: Hydro Currents

Energy Secretary Chu touts the value of hydropower

Leading the worldwide race to develop clean-energy technology would benefit state economies and the national economy, while helping to lessen the U.S.'s dependence on oil, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said during an address at the Montana Economic Development Summit.

During his address, Chu discussed the future of energy in Montana and in the U.S., noting that renewable energy sources, including hydropower, wind, and other renewables, have great potential in creating jobs, cutting harmful emissions, and freeing the nation from dependence on fossil fuels.

The demand for oil is expected to double in the next 20 to 25 years, Chu said. The time for action on development of clean, renewable energy is now, he said.

"There is a race to develop clean energy technologies around the world," Chu said. "We can be the leader in this race, or we can import technologies from abroad."

Chu noted the important role of energy storage, including pumped-storage hydropower. He emphasized the potential for Montana to expand its use of hydropower through the implementation of pumped storage.

"As the Secretary pointed out, hydropower's potential for creating clean, domestic generating capacity - with minimal environmental impacts - is considerable," said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association. "Pumped storage, as he also highlighted, is one of the best ways available to maximize output from variable renewable resources and provide utility-scale storage."

FERC, Colorado plan pilot program for small hydro exemptions

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the state of Colorado have signed a memorandum of understanding under which Colorado is to develop a pilot program to advance FERC hydropower licensing exemptions for small hydro projects in the state.

Coinciding with rising interest in development of small, low-impact hydro projects, FERC said federal surveys have identified several hundred potential hydro projects in Colorado of less than 5 MW that total more than 1,400 MW. Beginning with a technical conference in December 2009, FERC has been investigating ways to simplify the process to obtain small hydropower licenses and exemptions.

Under the MOU, announced Aug. 25, FERC and Colorado agreed that Colorado will develop a pilot program to test options to simplify procedures for authorizing exemptions from FERC hydropower licenses. Under the Federal Power Act, exemptions are allowed for small hydro plants on conduits and for hydropower projects of 5 MW or less that utilize an existing dam or natural water feature.

Hydro-Quebec, Vermont utilities sign long-term hydropower deal

Vermont's two largest utilities said they have signed a contract to buy hydroelectric power from Hydro-Quebec for 26 years.

Central Vermont Public Service and Gaz Metro Ltd's Green Mountain Power, which negotiated the agreement on behalf of several smaller Vermont utilities, agreed to buy up to 225 MW from Canada's Hydro-Quebec starting in November 2012 and ending in 2038.

The deal must still be reviewed by the state's Public Service Board.

"Our strong relationship with our friends in Quebec is vital to the economic well-being of Vermont," Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas said. "This agreement will help ensure a clean, competitively-priced energy future for Vermonters. It will provide stable, renewable power at a competitive price for 26 years, starting in 2012, and will help Vermont's power supply remain arguably the nation's cleanest."

In March, the Vermont utilities signed a memorandum of understanding with Hydro-Quebec, setting the stage for a new power supply contract for Vermont customers.

"We are very pleased to continue providing Vermonters with reliable, renewable, low-emitting energy," said Thierry Vandal, president and chief executive officer of Hydro-Quebec. "With this agreement, Vermonters are helping ensure that they maintain their commitment to renewable energy and minimize greenhouse gas emissions."

The purchase price for the Hydro-Quebec power will start at about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, the utilities said. The final price for deliveries starting in 2012 will be set in December 2010.

California American Water plans removal of San Clemente Dam

California American Water filed an application with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) requesting permission to remove San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River to resolve seismic safety concerns associated with the dam and to restore critical habitat for the steelhead trout.

"From an engineering and environmental perspective, this is a landmark project," said California American Water President Rob MacLean. "Our innovative method for dealing with the sedimentation behind the dam and the level of public-private cooperation which has made this plan a reality will serve as a template for the removal of other obsolete dams across the country."

California American Water is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service and the California State Coastal Conservancy to implement the dam removal project while minimizing cost to its ratepayers.

California American Water has committed $49 million and the dedication of 928 acres as parkland. The Coastal Conservancy and NOAA committed to raise the additional $35 million needed for the removal project through a combination of public funding and private donations.

PG&E seeks funds for feasibility study on pumped-storage project

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. filed a request with California regulators for funding to study the feasibility of building a pumped-storage hydro project in the Mokelumne River watershed in Amador County.

The hydropower facility PG&E hopes to study would range in size from 400 MW to 1,200 MW.

San Francisco-based PG&E, incorporated in California in 1905, is one of the largest combination natural gas and electric utilities in the U.S.

FERC filing resolves objections to Kentucky utilities acquisition

Pennsylvania-based PPL Corp. and E.ON U.S. LLC filed a notice of settlement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that the utilities say resolves objections to PPL's acquisition of Louisville Gas & Electric Co. and Kentucky Utilities Co. from the U.S. subsidiary of Germany-based E.ON AG.

PPL and E.ON announced in April that E.ON agreed to sell PPL the two Kentucky utilities for $7.625 billion.

Among other assets, the deal would add Kentucky Utilities' 24-MW Dix Dam on the Dix River and LG&E's 100.6-MW Ohio Falls project on the Ohio River to PPL's hydropower portfolio.

Two groups of municipal utilities, Ohio-based American Municipal Power and Kentucky Municipals, had filed objections to the acquisition based on concerns about transmission and wholesale electricity sales issues.

PPL and E.ON's Sept. 15 filing listed new commitments from PPL that mainly honored existing commitments of the Kentucky utilities and agreed to work with stakeholders in the region on transmission and wholesale power issues.

Low-cost hydropower to power new Yahoo data center

New York Gov. David A. Paterson announced that Yahoo Inc., the world's largest global online network of integrated internet services, has completed the first phase of a multi-phased investment project in Western New York. Low-cost hydropower was among the incentives offered to Yahoo.

The company finished construction and opened a new $150 million data center facility, creating 125 jobs. The data center will host consumer services, advertisements and content found on Yahoo.

In order to locate operations in Lockport, Yahoo received various incentives, including 15 MW of low-cost hydropower from the New York Power Authority. The company also secured a "Green IT" U.S. Department of Energy grant for leadership in energy efficient design.

New York Power Authority President and CEO Richard M. Kessel said: "Yahoo's presence in Western New York underscores the region's ability to attract a world leader in high technology using its best resource - low-cost hydropower."

FERC recommends relicensing 25-MW Swan Falls

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff has issued a final environmental impact statement recommending the relicensing of the 25-MW Swan Falls hydroelectric project in Idaho.

Swan Falls is in Ada and Owyhee counties of Idaho on the Snake River.

Licensee Idaho Power Co. recommends renewing the project license with no increase in installed capacity. However, the utility proposes a series of resource management plans covering water quality, wildlife habitat and enhancement, noxious weeds, special status plants, recreation, cultural resources, and historic properties.

Although the project currently occupies 529 acres of federal lands, Idaho Power proposes reducing the project boundary to include only 181 acres of federal lands.

In the EIS, FERC staff recommended Idaho Power's relicensing proposal with some modifications to the proposed management plans, based on recommendations of state and federal resources agencies.

Also under the staff alternative, Swan Falls would be operated to include measures proposed by Idaho Power for its 1,166.9-MW Hells Canyon hydroelectric complex, downstream on the Snake. Hells Canyon, which includes the 585.4-MW Brownlee, 391.5-MW Hells Canyon, and 190-MW Oxbow powerhouses, also is undergoing relicensing.

Under the Hells Canyon proceeding, Idaho Power has proposed a white sturgeon conservation plan. The Swan Falls EIS added the Hells Canyon plan's measures to rebuild the sturgeon population in Swan Falls' nearby reach.

If Swan Falls were relicensed with no changes, it would produce power in the first year at a cost of $2.1 million, or $13.15 per MWh, less than the cost of alternative power. By relicensing it as proposed, it would produce power at a cost of $1.4 million, or $8.83 per MWh, less than alternative power.

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