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Hydro Currents

Secreatary Chu

Energy, Interior award $17 million to hydro research and development

The U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior awarded $17 million over three years to research and development efforts designed to advance hydropower technology.

Sixteen projects were selected through a competitive grant process. The selection was based on each project’s ability to produce hydropower more efficiently, reduce costs and increase sustainable hydropower generation.

The funding is part of the Obama Administration’s plan to meet 80 percent of the nation’s electricity needs with clean energy sources by 2035.

Among other things, the research projects promise to improve generation from small hydropower projects (less than 30 MW), boost environmental performance of hydropower facilities, test low-head technologies and encourage deployment of pumped storage hydro.

“By improving and deploying advanced hydropower technologies, we can maximize our use of this proven clean energy resource, create jobs and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The projects selected center on four ways to advance hydropower production in the U.S.: Sustainable small hydropower; sustainable pumped storage hydropower; environmental mitigation technologies for conventional hydropower; and advanced hydropower system testing at a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation facility.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District of California received more than a third of the nearly $17 million in hydropower research and development grants announced Sept. 6 by the Departments of Energy and Interior.

Sean Parnell

NHA finds Alaska ripe for new hydro development

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell stressed the importance of new hydroelectric development to Alaska, welcoming the National Hydropower Association’s Alaska Regional Meeting Aug. 30-31 at the Girdwood resort area of Anchorage.

Parnell said hydropower is important to Alaska’s economic and energy needs. The governor highlighted the proposed 600-MW Susitna-Watana hydroelectric project as part of a comprehensive energy package that will spur economic opportunity for Alaskans.

Parnell signed legislation recently that allows the $4.5 billion project to proceed on the Susitna River.

“Alaska’s roaring rivers can light and heat our homes during the dark winter nights,” Parnell said. “... Hydropower will put us far down the path to achieving our goal of 50 percent renewable energy for electricity by 2025.”

Hydro industry professionals and state and federal policymakers spent two days at the regional meeting discussing financing, the regulatory process, and public policy that affects new hydro development in Alaska.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the notion that there is no further potential for hydropower development in the U.S. is a “misconception.”

“Over 200 promising sites for further hydroelectric development have been identified that have the potential to produce hundreds, if not thousands, of megawatts of power — Susitna being just the largest and Lake Chakachamna the second largest of those sites,” Murkowski told the group.

The 330-MW Lake Chakachamna hydro project is 85 miles west of Anchorage.

Kevin Frank

Industry calls for passage of Hydropower Improvement Act

Developers of one of the largest deployments of new hydropower generation in the U.S. called on President Obama and Senate lawmakers to pass legislation that would promote the development of new hydropower capacity and create jobs in the U.S.

Voith Hydro is supplying turbines and generators for four run-of-river hydropower projects on the Ohio River. The projects are being developed by American Municipal Power. Each project will create 200 to 400 new construction jobs. Voith said it created 126 jobs in the last three years to serve these and other planned hydropower projects.

Both companies issued a joint press release Sept. 21 urging Obama and lawmakers to pass the Hydropower Improvement Act, which passed the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee in April and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

The measure “would go a long way to help us meet hydropower’s potential by streamlining the regulatory process and improving research and development at the Department of Energy,” said Kevin Frank, president and chief executive officer of Voith Hydro.

The Hydropower Improvement Act urges regulators to consider a two-year licensing process for hydropower projects at existing non-powered dams and closed-loop pumped storage projects. What’s more, the legislation would establish competitive grants for adding generation equipment to non-powered dams, more capacity to existing hydro facilities and efficiency improvements to existing plants.

“Improving efficiency of the permitting processes… will encourage more job creation and greater project economics for both AMP and the hydropower industry at large,” said Mark Gerken, president and CEO of AMP.

Carbon fiber plant opens, powered by Pacific Northwest hydro

SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers officially opened its new manufacturing plant Sept. 1 near Moses Lake to take advantage of the Pacific Northwest’s abundant supply of low-cost hydropower.

SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, a joint venture between German automaker BMW and SGL Carbon, said the plant illustrates the value of hydropower as a tool to create a sustainable business and jobs.

All electricity for the production of carbon fibers is to come from readily available, competitively priced, clean and renewable power produced by Columbia River hydroelectric projects in central Washington.

Creating 80 new local jobs, the Moses Lake plant manufactures carbon fiber materials for ultra-lightweight carbon fiber-reinforced plastics for use in BMW’s line of electric and battery vehicles.

U.S. report: Hydro to lead global renewables growth through 2035

A U.S. agency report predicts hydroelectric power will constitute 55 percent of the renewable energy added globally through 2035.

International Energy Outlook 2011, by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, said renewable energy sources are the fastest growing sources of electricity generation globally. It predicts, from 2008 to 2035, world renewable energy use for electricity generation will grow an average of 3.1 percent per year and the renewable share of world electricity generation will increase from 19 percent in 2008 to 23 percent in 2030.

“Of the 4.6 trillion kilowatt-hours of new renewable generation added over the projection period, 2.5 trillion kilowatt-hours (55 percent) is attributed to hydroelectric power,” the report said.

The report predicted world hydropower generation will increase to 5.6 trillion kWh by 2035 from 3.1 trillion kWh in 2008. Total world net electricity generation is expected to increase 84 percent, the report said, to 35.2 trillion kWh in 2035 from 19.1 trillion kWh in 2008.

Ken Salazar

Draft EIS recommends removing Klamath projects

A draft environmental impact statement by the Department of Interior and the state of California recommends removal of four hydroelectric developments on the Klamath River at an estimated cost of more than $291 million to ratepayers and taxpayers.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar hailed the draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report and accompanying scientific and technical studies.

“The science and analysis is vital to sound decision making, but I also look forward to hearing from the people of the Klamath Basin who have endured a long cycle of irrigation shortages, fishing closures, poor water quality, fish disease and a large salmon die-off in 2002, and closure of the tribal fishery in Upper Klamath Lake for 25 years,” Salazar said.

Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Fish and Game are taking comments until Nov. 21 on their joint environmental impact statement. Salazar is to make a final decision on dam removal based on review of the data and public input. That decision is expected in March.

Framework agreements call for removing the dams by 2020 if Congress and Interior Department scientists approve.

Interior said the studies found that dam removal and a watershed restoration program could increase significantly salmon harvests in the river and ocean, eliminate toxic algae blooms in reservoirs and restore more normal water temperatures for salmon.

U.S. approves fish passage facility for Washington’s Cle Elum Dam

The Bureau of Reclamation approved a project to construct fish passage facilities and reintroduce fish species at Reclamation’s Cle Elum Dam on the Cle Elum River in Washington.

Reclamation Pacific Northwest Regional Director Karl Wirkus signed a record of decision for the project Aug. 26. The project is to provide fish passage to historic habitat and restore biodiversity to enhance natural production of salmon and lamprey in the upper Cle Elum subbasin.

The fish passage and reintroduction project is expected to benefit sockeye, coho, and spring chinook salmon, and Pacific lamprey. It also is to benefit two listed species under the Endangered Species Act, Upper Middle Columbia River steelhead and bull trout.

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