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Breaking News: Hydro Currents

Alaska selects site for proposed Susitna River dam

Alaska officials chose a location on the Susitna River to build a proposed $5 billion dam and hydro project.

The project, as recommended by the Alaska Energy Authority, would include a 700-foot-tall dam with a 600-MW hydro project.

The Alaska Energy Authority selected a remote site on the Susitna River as its preferred location for the project, and Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell signaled his support.

Earlier, Parnell signed an energy bill setting a 50 percent goal for renewables, including hydropower. The governor also signed a $10 million appropriation to finance studies comparing two potential locations for the new project.

That led to the AEA's recommendation to pursue a conventional dam design at the Low Watana site on the Susitna River in a remote location about 40 miles east of the highway and railroad corridor linking Anchorage and Fairbanks.

The other alternative was Chakachamna Lake, 85 miles west of Anchorage, where a 10-mile-long tunnel would be built using gravity to carry water between two watersheds, generating power in the process.

At $5 billion, the Susitna River dam would cost about 50 percent more to build than Chakachamna, the authority found. But it would generate twice as much power with more reliability and faces fewer regulatory obstacles. The proposed Susitna dam and hydro project would have 600 MW of capacity, compared to 126 MW at Bradley Lake.

FERC proposes rules to integrate variable renewables into grid

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued proposed rules Nov. 18 designed to ease barriers to integrating variable renewable energy sources, including hydropower and hydrokinetics, into the U.S. electricity transmission grid.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) is the result of a review of regulatory policies begun in January 2010. FERC examined whether it should reform any of its rules or procedures to help incorporate variable energy resources from renewables in the most efficient and non-discriminatory manner while maintaining grid reliability.

The proposed rules would modify the Open Access Transmission Tariffs and the Large Generator Interconnection Agreements filed by transmission providers to require them to offer services that would allow for a more efficient integration of variable energy resources such as wind, solar, hydro, and hydrokinetics into the grid system.

"The commission is proposing to require public utility transmission providers to offer a new ancillary service -- generator regulation service -- to transmission customers delivering energy from a generator in its balancing area," FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. "This service will provide the resources necessary to continuously balance the system by following the moment-to-moment changes in generation output. We also propose to allow the transmission providers to recover the costs they incur in providing this ancillary service."

The NOPR also proposes to require transmission providers to offer all customers the option to schedule transmission at 15-minute intervals instead of the current hourly scheduling.

FERC said the more frequent scheduling would provide greater accuracy in scheduling, thereby mitigating the amount of ancillary services the customer would need to supply or purchase.

Energy plan underestimates hydro potential

The Ontario Waterpower Association (OWA) said it is disappointed that Canada's Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP) does not fully recognize the significant unrealized hydropower potential in the province.

The plan, released by Minister of Energy Brad Duguid, includes only a modest increase in the contribution of Ontario's primary renewable energy source, notwithstanding the critical role waterpower plays in ensuring a reliable and affordable energy supply, said OWA President Paul Norris.

"Renewable power from Ontario's fleet of 200 waterpower facilities moderates electricity prices for consumers across the province," Norris said. "Expanding our use of waterpower is absolutely critical to ensuring an affordable and reliable long term energy supply."

The LTEP targets the expansion of waterpower capacity by approximately 1,000 MW by 2018. By 2030, waterpower is projected to account for only one-fifth of the electricity in Ontario.

"Much more potential than is included in this plan has been identified, particularly in northern Ontario," Norris said. "Waterpower was our first choice a century ago and should be our first choice today for an economical and dependable source of generation."

California developer proposes 3,186-MW wave farm

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted a preliminary permit to JD Products LLC to study developing a 3,186-MW San Onofre OWEG Electricity Farm off the coast of San Diego County, Calif.

JD Products, of Fountain Valley, Calif., proposes to install 11,433 Ocean Wave Electricity Generation (OWEG) units, an experimental technology, in 2 square nautical miles of ocean offshore of the San Onofre nuclear power plant. A 2,640-foot-long transmission line would interconnect with the power grid at the nuclear plant.

JD Products' application said its initial plan is to install only 50 units in an area of 122,000 square feet during the preliminary permit period of 36 months. However, a FERC preliminary permit merely reserves the site while the permit holder investigates the feasibility of a project and prepares a license application.

It does not allow construction or installation of generating units.

FERC issued the permit for San Onofre OWEG Electricity Farm (No. 13679) Oct. 29.

The OWEG model unit consists of four 5-foot-diameter wheels; one 16-foot-long, 6-foot-wide conveyor belt; eight water buckets; and an electricity generation box containing gear and pulley systems and three generators. The top of the unit would protrude 4 or 5 feet above water.

The National Marine Fisheries Service filed comments with FERC Dec. 10, contending JD Products filed a FERC license pre-application document (PAD) prematurely, without holding meaningful consultation with NMFS first.

"We are concerned with the lack of meaningful consultation prior to the filing of the PAD as well as much of the material presented in the PAD," the agency said. "NMFS requests that the commission consider the lack of pre-filing consultation with NMFS when evaluating the completeness of the PAD."

PPL Penobscot River dams to be removed following sale

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust has struck a $24 million deal with PPL Corporation to buy three dams on the river. Two of the dams are to be removed.

PPL Corporation announced it has completed the sale of its remaining three hydroelectric generating facilities in Maine to the Penobscot River Restoration Trust for approximately $24 million.

This sale culminates an agreement reached in 2004 by PPL and a coalition of environmental groups and governmental agencies to facilitate the removal or bypassing of the three generating facilities to restore runs of Atlantic salmon and other migratory fish to Maine's Penobscot River.

The trust will take over the 8.4-MW Veazie, 7.9-MW Great Works and 1.9-MW Howland hydro projects. The group plans to remove the Veazie and Great Works dams and build a fish passage around the Howland dam, local media reported. That will open up nearly 1,000 miles of river habitat to eleven species of sea-run fish, including endangered Atlantic salmon, sturgeon and river herring, the trust says.

In addition to its sale proceeds from the trust, PPL also has received $14 million in contingent consideration from Black Bear Hydro Partners, LLC, an affiliate of ArcLight Capital Partners, LLC.

As previously announced, this additional compensation is related to the rights to increase output at certain other hydroelectric facilities in Maine that PPL sold to Black Bear in late 2009. These contingent expansion rights, as well as associated obligations, were part of PPL's original agreement with the coalition, and were transferred to Black Bear as part of the 2009 transaction.

In 2009, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded $6.1 million in economic stimulus money to Penobscot River Restoration Trust to help fund removal of the 8-MW Great Works hydroelectric project.

FERC reports hydro regulatory performance in 2010

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reported its accomplishments in hydropower licensing and safety as part of its Performance and Accountability Report for Fiscal Year 2010.

Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff released the report Nov. 15, in accordance with guidelines of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Among FERC's "noteworthy accomplishments," the report said the commission continued in FY 2010 to foster the orderly and environmentally sound development of hydrokinetic technologies.

It noted FERC signed a memorandum of understanding with the state of California in May to coordinate procedures to review hydrokinetic projects off the coast of California. It also signed an agreement with the Coast Guard in June to coordinate processing the large number of proposed hydrokinetic projects in the Mississippi River.

The report said FERC is processing two license applications and more than 50 pre-filing applications for hydrokinetic projects representing 6,300 MW.

In addition, FERC reported it achieved its 2010 goal to develop an action plan for incorporating the use of risk-informed decision making in its dam safety program.

FERC proposes, by fiscal year 2014, that risk-informed decision making will be fully incorporated into the dam safety program.

Through the high-level process of assessing each dam, FERC staff is to be able to identify high-risk dams that need more urgent attention.

"It will provide the capability to assess non-traditional failure modes, levelize risk across different loading conditions, focus inspections and surveillance on the specific potential failure modes and monitoring programs at the project, and guide remediation projects to provide an overall reduced level of risk at commission dams," the report said.

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