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Study plan approved for Alaska's 600-MW Susitna-Watana

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the remaining 14 environmental studies for the 600-MW Susitna-Watana project on Alaska's upper Susitna River.

FERC staff ruled in December that Alaska Energy Authority's revised study plan lacked sufficient detail about 14 of the 58 proposed environmental impact studies. As the start of the FERC licensing process, the plan proposed 58 individual studies of the proposed dam site and surrounding area, 184 miles up the Susitna River above Devils Canyon.

In January, AEA convinced FERC to accelerate its revised study plan schedule for the 14 studies to avoid losing the entire 2013 field season.

FERC approved in April one of the remaining study plans without modification and the other 13 with modifications. The studies cover water quality monitoring, mercury assessment and potential for bioaccumulation, geomorphology, fluvial geomorphology modeling below Watana Dam, groundwater, ice processes in the Susitna River, fish and aquatics instream flow, riparian instream flow, fish distribution and abundance in three Susitna reaches, river productivity, characterization and mapping of aquatic habitats, and riparian vegetation downstream from Watana Dam.

In approving plans for the last 14 studies, FERC rejected calls from resource agencies and groups to expand AEA's proposed two years of studies to five years. The National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and numerous individuals and non-governmental organizations expressed concerns that two years of sampling is not enough to collect adequate data.

"AEA's proposed two-year study schedule is consistent with generally accepted practices in the scientific community for evaluating the effects of hydropower projects on fisheries and riparian resources..." the FERC ruling said. "It would be premature to require additional years of data collection without first evaluating the data and modeling results that will be obtained from 2013 and 2014 study seasons."

EPRI announces several new board members

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) announced in April that Kimberly Greene, president and chief executive officer of Southern Company Services, will chair its Board of Directors.

Greene had previously served a term as vice chair for the energy research group. Before joining Southern Company, Greene was executive vice president and chief generation officer with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

EPRI also announced the election of Denis O'Brien, senior executive VP of Exelon and CEO of Exelon Utilities, as vice chair. Previously, O'Brien was executive VP of Exelon and CEO of PECO, a Philadelphia-based utility.

Other board members, who will serve four-year terms, are: Bernard Salha, CEO of research and development at Electricite de France; Livio Vido, chairman of Enel Ingegneria e Ricerca in Italy; Duane D. Highly, president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperative; Terry Boston, president and CEO of PJM; and James Lash, president of FirstEnergy Generation.

TXU Energy Chairman and CEO Jim Burke and Keith Trent, executive VP and chief operating officer of regulated utilities at Duke Energy, were elected to one-year interim terms. Anita Decker, COO of Bonneville Power Administration, will be one of two federal public power representatives on the board.

EPRI is an independent, non-profit organization focused on research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity.

Corps to perform biological, fish studies in Northwest

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to hire companies to perform biological studies and fish studies in the Snake and Columbia river basins and other areas of the Pacific Northwest.

The studies will relate to objectives of the Columbia River Fish Migration Program, the Continuing Authorities Program, the Project Authorities of Dams, and other programs managed by the Corps. Most work of this nature conducted to date has focused on passage of salmon, lamprey and resident fish at hydro projects. Future research topics, techniques and scope of biological studies might evolve based on changing priorities identified through regional discussions.

Under a separate contract, the Corps will hire companies to provide biological studies of vertical distribution and acclimation depth of sub-yearling chinook salmon. The Corps seeks to validate salmon survival estimates while determining if there is a significant difference in survival due to depth pressure acclimation of run-of-river fish relative to directly released surface acclimated fish.

Other research under way

In April, Columbia Basin Environmental won a US$36,700 contract to perform total dissolved gas and temperature monitoring at 2,457-MW Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River in Washington, 525-MW Libby Dam on the Kootenai River in Montana, and 42.6-MW Albeni Falls Dam on the Pend Oreille River in Idaho. The company will install government-owned and supplied gas and temperature probes, as well as maintain and calibrate them, plus conduct a special temperature study at Albeni Falls Dam.

Study says 70% of new energy through 2030 will be renewable

A study released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) shows that renewable energy sources - including large hydropower projects - will account for 69% to 74% of all power generation investments in the world through 2030.

Annual investment in new renewable power capacity is set to rise by 2.5 to 4.5 times by 2030, according to BNEF, with the likeliest scenario being an increase of 230%. BNEF said that figure equates to investments of US$630 billion in renewable energy sources per year by 2030 and reflects an increased interest in non-intermittent clean power like hydroelectricity and decreasing costs for development.

"The news ... is dominated by stories of pain caused by overcapacity on the supply side of clean energy and the lure of cheap shale gas," BNEF chief executive Michael Liebreich said. "But this is playing out against the falling costs of renewable energy and all of the technologies required to integrate it into our energy system. What it suggests is that we are beyond the tipping point towards a cleaner energy future."

Bloomberg's predictions come from its "Global Energy and Emissions Model," which, BNEF said, integrates all the main determinates of the energy future, "including economic prosperity, global and regional demand growth, the evolution of technology costs, likely developments in policies to combat climate change, and trends in fossil fuel markets."

These factors work to form the "New Normal," "Barrier Busting" and "Traditional Territory" scenarios. BNEF said the New Normal scenario is the most likely and its projected clean energy investment in 2030 ($630 billion in nominal terms) represents an increase of more than three times the investments made in renewable energy capacity built in 2012.

This projection is 35% higher than the numbers its Global Energy and Emissions Model produced a year ago.

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