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BC Hydro board OKs John Hart replacement project

BC Hydro has taken the next step toward a C$1.35 billion (US$1.36 billion) overhaul of its 126-MW John Hart Generating Station.

The corporation says it will proceed with an environmental and regulatory review application for the John Hart upgrade and renovation project, which seeks to address safety, reliability and environmental issues surrounding the 65-year-old facility.

The company's goal is to complete the regulatory processes and award the construction contract by summer 2013, with the first replacement generating unit in-service by 2017 and completion scheduled for 2018.

BC Hydro says the hydropower facility, on Vancouver Island near Campbell River, has seen declining output due to six turbine-generator units that are in "poor condition." The company also says the facility is susceptible to seismic activity and that a partial or full station outage would have a significant impact on river flows and wildlife.

The project calls for the replacement of three existing 1.8-km-long penstocks with a 2.1-km tunnel through bedrock and construction of a replacement hydroelectric generating station beside the existing powerhouse, a replacement water intake at the John Hart Spillway Dam, and a new water bypass facility.

Included in the new generating station will be three 46-MW turbine-generator units, which will replace the six current 21-MW units. BC Hydro's next steps include filing a federal Environmental Assessment Report with Fisheries and Oceans Canada later this month, along with a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity application with the British Columbia Utilities Commission later this spring.

BC Hydro has moved closer to starting a major overhaul at the 126-MW John Hart Generating Station in British Columbia, where output has declined due to the "poor condition" of the turbine-generator units.

OSEA supports Ontario's new feed-in tariff rules and pricing

The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association gave high marks to the Ontario government's feed-in tariff program update, calling it a positive and natural progression of the FIT program and a victory for communities, First Nations and renewable energy developers.

"The government's re-engagement and willingness to improve the program is very important and timely. This renewed commitment will further strengthen Ontario's leadership role in renewable energy," says Kristopher Stevens, OSEA's executive director.

A two-year review was ordered to find ways to make the FIT program sustainable. Its goal, according to the Ontario government, is to emphasize the development of renewable energy sources, including hydropower. The government hopes to use the FIT program to reduce prices for developing renewable energy projects and phase out coal-fired electricity generation by 2014, as well as create more jobs in the renewable energy field.

OSEA believes the enhanced role of municipalities, combined with the changes that ease community and First Nations participation, will fortify Ontario's growing green economy. "OSEA is excited that more Ontario communities, including aboriginal ones, are now better positioned to develop community-based renewable energy projects," says Harry French, director of OSEA's Community Power Services Group.

The changes also provide an opportunity to help commercial developers better understand and deploy engagement and partnership best practices that enhance community benefits, OSEA says. "Shifting the contracting and the Renewable Energy Approvals process oversight to the Cabinet Office responds to a previous weakness," Stevens says.

Environmental groups challenge Lower Churchill project

The 3,074-MW Lower Churchill hydroelectric project came under fire from environmental groups just days after receiving approval from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

According to a press release issued by the Sierra Club Canada, "the government of Canada's endorsement of the Lower Churchill Generation Project is unlawful and will be challenged in the federal court."

The Sierra Club - in conjunction with Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Inc. - has filed a judicial review application with the federal court on grounds that the initial environmental assessment is incomplete. The groups are represented by Ecojustice.

The review application seeks to block the government from issuing any permits or financial guarantees to project owner Nalcor Energy until the assessment is completed "in full." It also asks the court to overturn the federal government's endorsement of the project. "We want the panel to finish the job it was tasked to do, and until that happens, we believe the federal government does not have the legal right to support the project with permits or funding," says Lara Tessaro, Ecojustice staff lawyer.

The environmental assessment process for the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Generation Project was initiated in 2006. The governments of Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada approved the environmental assessment for the Lower Churchill project. Nalcor Energy is currently reviewing the governments' responses.

"The environmental assessment process is an important planning tool, and we'll incorporate the conditions required as part of the project's release into our planning and design work as we move forward," says Ed Martin, Nalcor president and chief executive officer.

The Lower Churchill project is comprised of the 824-MW Muskrat Falls (first phase) and 2,250-MW Gull Island (second phase) facilities. Project proponents say power from Muskrat Falls can be a long-term, stable source of clean, renewable energy for provincial electricity consumers, and development of Gull Island will support continued industrial development in the province.

Gilkes opens new North American office in Canada

Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon Ltd. recently announced the opening of its new North American Office in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The England-based small hydropower manufacturing company says this office will support all existing and future hydroelectric projects for North America.

"We hope the proximity of the office to a very active hydropower area will give our customers better service from a sales, technical and support point of view," says Managing Director Nick Pike.

The company manufactures and supplies hydro turbines and ancillary equipment with capacity of 50 kW to 20 MW. It supplied turbines for the 7.5-MW Youngs Creek project that began operating in Washington State in October 2011.

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