Industry News

FERC grants schedule reprieve to Alaska's 600-MW Susitna-Watana

Receiving assurances that Alaska Energy Authority will meet certain milestones, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has modified an earlier decision that would have delayed by a year or more AEA's 600-MW Susitna-Watana project on Alaska's upper Susitna River.

FERC staff ruled Dec. 31 that AEA's revised study plan lacked sufficient detail about 13 of Susitna-Watana's 58 proposed environmental impact studies. As the start of the FERC licensing process, the plan proposes 58 studies of the proposed dam site and surrounding area, 184 miles up the Susitna River above Devils Canyon.

Lacking that detail, FERC revised the schedule for the 13 studies, delaying its plan to issue FERC "study plan determinations" (SPD) to May 14 from the original date of Feb. 1. The SPD deadline for the other 45 studies remained Feb. 1.

AEA protested in a Jan. 7 letter, saying the delay could set back licensing by years and cost as much as $143 million. "AEA contends that the revised study plan contains sufficient detail for the commission staff to complete the SPD for all 58 studies, and the revised schedule would cause AEA to miss the entire 2013 field season for the 13 studies," FERC noted.

AEA asked FERC to instead modify the schedule and issue study plan determinations for the 13 studies by April 1, rather than May 14. AEA said that would give it a sufficient head start to complete all of the studies in the 2013 field season.

To meet the schedule, AEA pledged to:

- Provide results of 2012 open-water flow routing model and habitat mapping efforts, draft implementation plans, and proposed focus areas by Jan. 31;

- Hold stakeholder meetings to discuss the Jan. 31 items on Feb. 14-15; and

- File final implementation plans and focus areas by March 1.

FERC agreed with this modification. "Subject to AEA providing the above information and holding the meetings as proposed, the SPD is now scheduled to be issued by April 1, 2013," the commission said Jan. 17. "If AEA is unable to meet its proposed filing schedule, the SPD schedule will be adjusted accordingly."

The decision will allow AEA to apply for a FERC license for construction in 2015. Assuming AEA's plan progresses as hoped, the authority said the project could be online by 2024.

Yellowstone's micro hydro turbine now online

A 230-kW micro hydro turbine at Yellowstone National Park will equate to as much as US$80,000 per year in energy savings. The project was funded in large part by a $1.1 million grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, according to the Yellowstone Park Foundation, and it will supply about a third of the energy needs of Yellowstone's Mammoth Hot Springs headquarters.

Park officials said the Yellowstone project uses only water that was already being piped in from nearby Indian Creek to Mammoth's man-made water supply reservoir, meaning no dams or diversion channels needed to be added.

Energy produced is fed directly into a NorthWestern Energy grid instead of going to the buildings, meaning Yellowstone had to contract with the utility to receive credits for the power produced.

FERC reports 6.5-MW Expanded Kansas River project in service

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reports Bowersock Mills & Power Co. placed in service the 6.5-MW Expanded Kansas River project during the month of November.

The Energy Infrastructure Update for November 2012, issued by FERC's Office of Energy Projects, also showed the commission granted exemptions from hydro licensing to three projects totaling 490 kW.

The Expanded Kansas River project is an expansion of the 2.14-MW Kansas River project at Bowersock Mills Dam in Lawrence, Kan. It features a new powerhouse across the river from the existing powerhouse that began generating electricity in 1905. FERC certified the additional 4.397 MW for renewable energy production tax credits in 2010.

The Energy Infrastructure Update said the expansion was placed in service in November but was not operating due to low water in the Kansas River.

FERC also granted exemptions in November to three conduit projects in Oregon totaling 490 kW. Two of the exemptions went to the city of Pendleton, Ore., including one for the 161-kW Energy Recovery Technology (ERT) project on the city's water system in Umatilla County, Ore. Pendleton received the other for the 234.4-kW ERT Phase 2 project also on the city's water system in Umatilla County. FERC issued the third exemption to the city of Hillsboro, Ore., for the 94-kW Will Crandall Reservoir project on the city's water distribution system in Washington County.

In other action, the commission amended an exemption increasing the capacity of the Thayn project by 175 kW to 575 kW. The project is on the Green River in Emery County, Utah.

The November 2012 update is at

Rochester Gas & Electric restarts Station 5 after modernization

Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. opened the valves that feed water to the three turbines in its 46-MW Station 5 project in December, signaling the completion of a five-year, $111 million modernization.

Station 5, on the Genesee River near Lake Ontario, began operating in 1917. RG&E dewatered the 2,000-foot-long, horseshoe-shaped tunnel in August 2007 to reline it and upgrade other components, including the three turbine-generator units.

Tetra Tech Inc. was awarded a $23 million contract to perform the work on the tunnel in September 2011.

The tunnel was refilled in mid-December, and the first turbine was repowered two days later. All three turbines are expected to be in use by early 2013, with formal recommissioning planned for spring 2013.

Washington legislator: Existing hydro is renewable

An amendment to Washington's state constitution might gain official recognition for hydropower as a renewable energy source. House Joint Resolution 4200 - filed by state Rep. Larry Haler in anticipation of Washington's upcoming legislative session - would modify an earlier policy called Initiative 937.

Initiative 937, approved by voters in 2006, requires utilities with at least 25,000 customers to purchase at least 3% of its power from eligible renewable sources. That percentage increases to 9% in 2016 and 15% in 2020.

As per the initiative, incremental electricity from efficiency improvements at regional utility-owned hydro projects and projects located in irrigation pipes and canals are included as "renewables." However, additional generation is ineligible if the project results in new water diversions or impoundments. Existing hydropower projects were also excluded.

Proponents of Haler's resolution say it will allow utilities to lower energy rates by including existing hydroelectric resources in the state's renewable energy portfolio. Currently, utilities are being forced to invest in other renewables to meet the initiative's percentage, while electricity produced by existing hydro plants is being sold to other states.

To be adopted as an amendment, House Joint Resolution 4200 must gain approval from both the state's House and Senate before being signed by Washington's governor. The question would then go to voters in November.

PennWell acquisitions of interest to hydro project owners, developers

PennWell Corporation has acquired a pair of online databases from Colorado-based Energy Central that have relevance for hydroelectric project owners and operators.

The first - GenerationHub - was launched in March 2012 and includes detailed information, statistics and data on more than 6,600 conventional and renewable power plants and their operations in the U.S. GenerationHub's database is searchable and sortable, and includes articles, source documents and maps for more than 550 hydro projects.

TransmissionHub was launched in October 2011 and includes profiles of more than 658 transmission projects.

"These electric power databases and intelligence services provide an exceptional fit with PennWell's growing suite of data and information products," President and CEO Robert F. Biolchini said.

PennWell publishes Hydro Review and HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide magazines and produces the HydroVision International, HydroVision Russia, HydroVision India and HydroVision Brasil events.

FERC certifies PTCs for hydro in Vermont, Connecticut, Maine

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has certified incremental generation at four projects in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine for renewable energy production tax credits.

The four projects receiving certification, and their details, are:

- The 525-kW Bethels Mills project in Vermont, with an annual historical generation baseline of 1,328 MWh and total incremental generation of 182 MWh, a 13.76% increase.

- The 575-kW Putnam project in Connecticut, with annual historical baseline generation of 2,552 MWh and new annual generation of 2,822 MWh, an increase of 10.6%.

- The 36.1-MW Millinocket development, part of the 70.809-MW Penobscot Mills project in Maine, with a historical generation baseline of 216,385 MWh and incremental generation totaling 5,303 MWh, a 2.45% increase.

- The 6.3-MW Messalonskee plant in Maine, with annual historical baseline generation of 21,061 MWh and new annual generation of 21,371 MWh, an increase of 1.47%.

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