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Hydro Currents

Youngs Creek project up and running in Washington

Snohomish County Public Utility District has officially opened a new hydropower project, the 7.5-MW Youngs Creek facility, near Sultan in Washington State.

The $29 million project, which took about three years to build, can generate enough power for about 2,000 homes. The dam, 12 feet tall and 65 feet wide, is the first dam built in Washington in nearly 20 years.

The project included a three-mile, underground pipeline that carries water 920 feet to the powerhouse. Also, 8 miles of underground and overhead transmission was built to carry power from the powerhouse to the Sultan substation.

The project was built above a waterfall, a natural barrier for migrating fish such as salmon. That means the project will not affect fish as they migrate upstream to spawn, officials said.

“We’re committed to operating this facility and other hydropower projects in a way that protects our natural environment while serving the community’s needs for high quality water and energy,” said Dave Aldrich, PUD board president. “We’re focused on operating our projects to keep energy competitively priced in balance with fish, wildlife, recreational and cultural resources.”

Utility officials said the Youngs Creek project gives the PUD greater flexibility with its power supply because it is a locally generated, reliable resource that provides power at times of the year when it is needed the most.

Condit Dam
Condit Dam

PacifiCorp breaches 14.7-MW Condit Dam, opening White Salmon River

With a muffled roar and a puff of pulverized concrete, Pacifi-Corp blasted open 14.7-MW Condit Dam on Oct. 26, ending nearly a century of power generation and opening 33 miles of White Salmon River to steelhead and salmon migration.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accepted PacifiCorp’s surrender of its license for Condit Dam in Washington in 2010 and approved the utility’s plan to remove the dam, 19 years after PacifiCorp attempted to relicense the project. Resource agencies and groups, including American Rivers, pushed for decommissioning and removal because the dam cut off salmon and steelhead from the White Salmon, a Columbia River tributary.

In a settlement with resource agencies and stakeholder groups, PacifiCorp agreed to remove Condit Dam and to decommission the project rather than spend an estimated $30 million to install fish ladders that would be required for relicensing.

“We are sad to lose this emission-free source of power,” President Micheal Dunn of PacifiCorp Energy said. “But we made a decision to work with our settlement partners to come to the most reasonable solution for everyone involved.”

Ted Deutch
Ted Deutch

Legislation promotes hydrokinetic development

House lawmakers have introduced legislation that would help realize the potential of hydrokinetic energy in the U.S.

U.S. Reps. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Don Young, R-Ark., introduced the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2011 on Sept. 21. The bill would provide research grants, loans and tax incentives to scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs working to develop and deploy technologies that produce power from the nation’s rivers, streams and oceans.

The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Similar legislation is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

“This bipartisan bill addresses the needs of the marine and hydrokinetic industry by creating programs to develop technologies, test devices, gain environmental and other data, and deploy,” said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association. “NHA urges the House to act quickly to advance this bill and provide the industry these tools to expand renewable energy generation in the U.S.”

Water agencies back bill to streamline small hydro on conduits

The U.S. House Water and Power Subcommittee heard testimony from irrigation and water district operators urging passage of a bill to reduce red tape and administrative costs of developing small hydropower projects on Bureau of Reclamation water conduits and canals.

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., is the legislator who introduced the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act of 2011, H.R. 2842.

“This simple and commonsense solution means vast quantities of hydroelectricity — without a single new dam and at a cost to the government of precisely nothing,” Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock, R-Calif., told the panel Sept. 14. “That means more jobs, cheaper and cleaner electricity, reduced reliance on fossil fuels, and less reliance on foreign sources of energy.”

The subcommittee hearing follows the endorsement by the full House Natural Resources Committee of the Small-Scale Hydropower Enhancement Act, H.R. 795, which would exempt hydropower projects generating less than 1.5 MW from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing rules.

If approved by Congress, the small conduit bill would provide blanket authorization for installation of small hydropower on Reclamation-owned canals and conduits and require Reclamation to offer preference to water user organizations for the development of such projects under a Lease of Power Privilege.

FERC approves first hydro project under Colorado small hydro pact

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved a hydropower license exemption for the first small hydro project to apply pursuant to a pilot program established by a FERC memorandum of understanding with the state of Colorado.

FERC issued an exemption Sept. 14 to George Wenschhof for the 23-kW Meeker Wenschhof project, to be built on an existing irrigation pipeline near Meeker, Colo. The project includes a powerhouse with one turbine-generator that is to generate 100,000 kWh annually.

FERC said the project was approved over two months, after reporting in July that it received the application.

Under the 2010 MOU, FERC and Colorado agreed that Colorado would 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.

The Colorado pilot program pre-screens project applications to ensure they qualify either for conduit or 5-MW exemptions. Screening is to determine that the projects either use an existing non-hydropower conduit, an existing dam, or a natural water feature. It also determines that applicants own the project features and that 5-MW exemption applications propose new installed capacity or increased capacity.

Taft honored by Alden Research Laboratories

Alden Research Laboratories recently dedicated one of its fish testing facilities to Edward (Ned) P. Taft III, who served as a former president of the company beginning in 2000 and was a pioneer in the field of fishery biology.

Taft, who died in 2009 after suffering from brain cancer, was a nationally renowned fisheries biologist with degrees from Brown and Northeastern universities. His career began at Stone and Webster Engineering Corp. during the 1970s, when the Clean Water Act forced hydroelectric utilities to examine the effects of cooling water withdrawal on fish and other aquatic species.

Taft designed field and laboratory experiments to predict fish survival and behaviors associated with fish protection systems before succeeding George Hecker as president.

The newly-christened Taft Fisheries Research and Test Facility — previously known as “Building 15” — has served Alden in a number of capacities since it was built in the 1970s.

Most recently, the facility was reconfigured to include a 10-foot by 20-foot water flume with a flow capacity of up to 500 cubic feet per second. The flume has been used for testing hydrokinetic turbines, fish bypass systems, traveling water screens with fish collection features and other devices.

Legislation would extend production tax credit for hydropower

The introduction of the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act (H.R. 3307) by U.S. Representatives Dave Reichert, R-Wash., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would extend the production tax credit for hydropower and other forms of renewable power through 2016.

Created as the Energy Policy Act of 1992 almost two decades ago, the legislation has frequently been extended in an effort to prevent renewable energy projects and research from slumping.

Historically, financial lenders have been hesitant in providing capital in the months leading up to the PTC’s expiration, sometimes preventing projects from coming online.

The current incentive — established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 — will expire in 2012 for wind power and 2013 for geothermal and hydro power.

“Renewable energy resources play an important and increasing role in America’s total energy supply,” Reichert said.

TVA celebrates 100 years of operation at Ocoee Dam No. 1

Tennessee Valley Authority’s 24-MW Ocoee Dam No. 1 project has reached its centennial milestone.

Ocoee Dam No. 1, on the Ocoee River, is one of the first hydro projects built in the Tennessee Valley and was completed in 1911 by the East Tennessee Power Company. Ocoee Dam No. 1 is 135 feet high and 840 feet long. It provides flood storage capacity of 19,000 acre-feet in Parksville Reservoir.

TVA acquired Ocoee Dam No. 1 and Ocoee Dam No. 2 in 1939. In 1990, No. 1 underwent a major modernization.

“This dam changed the standard of living, the economy and the recreational opportunities in this area as it shaped the Ocoee River,” says John McCormick, senior vice president of TVA River Operations.

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