FERC director backs development legislation before Congress
The director of energy projects for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission endorsed nearly all the language of several hydropower development bills in April testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
"Commission staff remains committed to exploring with project developers, its sister federal agencies, Indian tribes, the states, local government, and other stakeholders every avenue for the responsible development of our nation's hydropower potential," Director Jeff Wright told the panel. "The legislation under consideration will, as I have testified, assist in realizing that potential."
The energy committee took testimony from Wright and Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Commissioner Lowell Pimley on the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2013 (S.B.545), Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 (H.R.267), and Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development Act (H.R.678 and S.B.306).
Wright only questioned one provision, contained in both S.B.545 and H.R.267, which would require FERC to investigate the feasibility of implementing a two-year licensing process for hydro development at non-powered dams and for closed-loop pumped-storage projects.
Wright said he was not certain the language was necessary because FERC has made strides in recent years in which some licenses have been issued in just a few months.
"The commission operates under significant constraints imposed by the FPA (Federal Power Act) and by other legislation affecting the licensing process - the Clean Water Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, Endangered Species Act, and National Historic Preservation Act among them," he said. "In the absence of the ability to waive sections of the FPA and other acts, or to set enforceable schedules in licensing proceedings, it is not clear that the commission ... can mandate a shortened process."
Pimley generally backed the language of the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development Act, saying it would clarify Reclamation's ability to authorize hydropower development at its facilities, an area covered previously by a jurisdictional memorandum of understanding with FERC. It also would direct Reclamation to give preference to conduit water users for hydro development.
Pimley took exception to language that would exempt projects on Reclamation conduits from requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. He said low-impact projects can be efficiently developed under existing environmental review provisions without unduly delaying development.
Institute announces 2013 Hydro Fellowship recipients
The Hydro Research Foundation has announced this year's recipients of Hydro Fellowship awards. Each fellowship is worth US$44,000 to $66,000 and can be used over a one to one-and-a-half year period of study.
This year's Hydro Fellows, along with their universities, are:
Mark Christian (Doctoral Candidate), University of Tennessee;
Hosein Foroutan (Doctoral Candidate), Penn State University;
Mohammad Hajit (Doctoral Candidate), University of Minnesota;
Andrew Hamann (Masters Candidate), Carnegie Mellon University;
Kelcey Lajoie (Masters Candidate), Oregon State University;
Daniel Leonard (Doctoral Candidate), Penn State University;
Eliot Meyer (Doctoral Candidate), University of North Carolina;
Kevin Mulligan (Doctoral Candidate), University of Massachusetts;
William (Chris) Schleicher (Doctoral Candidate), Lehigh University; and
Heidi Smith (Doctoral Candidate); University of Idaho-Boise.
All 35 fellows program will attend HydroVision International 2013 in Denver, Colo., in July. The fellows will present their work during a special session that takes place Tuesday, July 23, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The session is free, but those interested in attending are asked to register at www.hydroevent.com.
The Hydro Fellows program has funded 43 students at 23 universities. This year's fellowships are made possible by a $3.7 million five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind and Water Power Program. Other program partners include the Avista Foundation, Knight Piesold and Co., PennWell Corporation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Hydroelectric Design Center and Weir American Hydro.
PSE's Snoqualmie Falls reopens after overhaul
One of the Pacific Northwest's oldest power plants, the Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Project, is again producing electricity for local homes and businesses after a three-year overhaul.
Puget Sound Energy's 102-year-old Plant 2 powerhouse at Snoqualmie Falls, idled in June 2010, restarted commercial generation in April. The plant underwent near-total reconstruction under a new, 40-year federal operating license.
The energy site's Plant 1 powerhouse - in a bedrock cavity almost 270 feet underground - also is getting a comprehensive makeover. Completed in 1899, the older powerhouse is scheduled to resume generating in July.
Once Plant 1 comes online this summer, Snoqualmie Falls' generating capacity will be 54 MW, compared to about 44 MW previously. The increased output, enough to serve about 40,000 homes, is being achieved through greater plant efficiencies; no additional water will run through the project's seven turbines.
Upgrades made at Plant 2 include:
- New steel and concrete intake structure;
- Relining of the 12-foot-diameter underground tunnel;
- New gatehouse that controls water flow from the tunnel to penstocks;
- New 7-foot-diameter penstock and one upgraded penstock;
- Completely rebuilt powerhouse;
- New 13.7 MW turbine-generator, replacing the plant's original 1910 turbine (the 1957-vintage, 26.5-MW turbine-generator remains in use); and
- New bypass flow-control system for ensuring public safety and maintaining consistent downstream flows for fish if an emergency shutdown were to occur.
First Energy chooses lignum vitae turbine bearings for Luray plant
Lignum-Vitae North America has been awarded a contract to supply a turbine bearing for FirstEnergy's 1.6-MW Luray plant.
One of the turbines in service at this plant, on the Shenandoah River in Virginia, was equipped with lignum vitae bearings that operated for 45 years. After experimenting with plastic bearings, FirstEnergy decided to convert the main guide bearings back to lignum vitae, Lignum-Vitae North America says.
Lignum vitae comes from a small, slow-growing tree. The wood is self-lubricating, and the bearings can be adjusted to zero clearance.
Lignum-Vitae North America is also supplying bearings to Alabama Power's Neely Dam and Wisconsin Public Service's Alexander Dam projects.
Support for hydro is strong, Wyden and McMorris Rodgers say
Attendees at the National Hydropower Association Annual Conference in April heard addresses by Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers during the event's opening session. Speaking primarily about several pieces of legislation designed to improve conditions for American hydro development, the two emphasized that bipartisan interest in hydropower and a commitment to cultivating domestic renewable energy sources are putting hydroelectric power at the forefront of policy decision making. "Hydro is back," Wyden, D.-Ore., said. "In fact, hydro is way back."
Wyden, who chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and co-sponsored the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2013, said the advantages hydroelectricity offers have helped make it a primary consideration as the nation's power producers strive to achieve President Barack Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy plan. "[Hydropower] is good news for the economy, good news for the planet, and also good news for rural America," Wyden said.
According to Wyden, American hydropower accounts for about 100,000 MW (or 7%) of the nation's total installed capacity. The Senator argued that hydroelectric capacity could be increased by 60,000 MW by 2025 if the right legislative support were in place. "It seems to me that what hydro has done in the last few years is becoming the gold standard in terms of collaboration and showing how you can bring people together," Wyden said.
His comments were echoed by McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who introduced the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 to the House of Representatives. "We are excited and eager to advance an all-of-the-above energy strategy. ... I've joined with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure that our nation's largest, cleanest, most affordable, reliable and renewable is included," McMorris Rodgers said.
Her bill passed the House unanimously in February and would eliminate much of the regulatory red tape associated with hydro development - particularly for small and in-conduit projects.
Preliminary guide for HydroVision International available online
Those planning to attend the world's largest event dedicated to the hydroelectric power industry can get a head start on their scheduling with the HydroVision International 2013 Preliminary Event Guide.
The guide - available to view and download at www.hydroevent.com - includes details about the conference sessions, exhibition hall, co-located events, technical tours, networking opportunities, and more.
HydroVision International 2013 runs July 23-26 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. In addition to an exhibition of hundreds of the hydro industry's top companies and organizations, the event features an educational component that includes seven panel presentation tracks, three technical paper tracks and a poster gallery. For more information, see the article on page 14.
FERC counsel gives go-ahead to bill to reinstate two projects
John Katz, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's deputy associate general counsel for energy projects, told a congressional committee April 16 that FERC does not oppose a bill that would reinstate and extend the licenses of two hydro projects terminated in 2007.
Katz testified before the Senate Water and Power Subcommittee on Senate Amendment 579 and H.R.316, which would revive the licenses of the 373-kW Upper Collinsville and 920-kW Lower Collinsville projects on the Farmington River in Hartford County, Conn.
The licenses were issued to Summit Hydropower in 2001, and in 2002 the commission issued the maximum allowable two-year extensions of time to commence construction. Summit did not begin construction by the deadline. In 2006, the head of FERC's hydro licensing staff testified before a House committee, saying FERC did not oppose language in a bill that would extend the construction deadlines for these projects until 2007. However, that legislation did not pass.
Construction did not start, so FERC issued a notice of intent to terminate the licenses in 2007, and the notice became a final order in January 2008.
The current legislation, by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), would reinstate the licenses but transfer them to the town of Canton, Conn., extend the construction start deadline another two years, allow FERC to add new terms and conditions to the licenses if necessary, and require FERC to supplement its environmental analysis of the projects to include new environmental concerns or information.
Katz told the subcommittee that Chairman Jon Wellinghoff and previous FERC chairmen have opposed legislation that extends commencement of construction further than 10 years from license issuance. The commission contends it is better to release sites to encourage competition, and environmental information might become stale over time.
"However, ... no entity has sought to develop the projects or proposed other uses for the project sites," Katz said. "Because the bills provide for the preparation of an updated environmental analysis, staleness of the environmental record will not be an issue. I am authorized to state that Chairman Wellinghoff does not oppose Senate Amendment 579 or H.R.316."