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FERC authorizes 16 hydro projects totaling 21.065 MW in 2013

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued 16 hydropower licenses and exemptions in 2013, totaling 21.065 MW, and received applications for 21 licenses and exemptions totaling 141.864 MW.

The Energy Infrastructure Update for December 2013, compiled by FERC's Office of Energy Projects, included figures for the entire calendar year of 2013.

Of the 16 licenses and exemptions issued, six were conventional licenses totaling 19.06 MW, four were (maximum) 10-MW exemptions totaling 1.033 MW, and six were conduit exemptions totaling 972 kW. That compares to 2012 figures of 12 licenses totaling 89.19 MW, two (maximum) 5-MW exemptions totaling 1.125 MW, and 18 conduit exemptions totaling 13.432 MW. In 2013, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act increased the maximum size for non-conduit exemptions to 10 MW from 5 MW.

There were no licenses or applications for hydrokinetic projects in 2013, compared to four licenses totaling 2.95 MW issued and two applications totaling 1.1 MW filed in 2012.

FERC approved four capacity amendments to existing licenses totaling 10.575 MW. That compares to 2012 figures of 16 amendments totaling 208.107 MW.

Filings seek total capacity of 142 MW

Applications were filed for 21 licenses and exemptions totaling 141.864 MW. Of those, 16 were for conventional licenses totaling 141.012 MW and five were for conduit exemptions totaling 852 kW. Applications also were filed for one capacity amendment of 170 kW. There were no applications for non-conduit exemptions.

That compares to 2012 applications: 14 for conventional licenses totaling 52.655 MW; three (maximum) 5-MW exemptions totaling 931 kW; 17 conduit exemptions totaling 4.475 MW; and five capacity amendments totaling 18.383 MW.

FERC said the six projects placed in service in 2013 included four licenses totaling 94.738 MW, one (maximum) 10-MW exemption of 850 kW, one conduit exemption of 37 kW and three capacity amendments totaling 5.06 MW. That compares to 2012 in-service figures of: four licenses totaling 17.58 MW; one (maximum) 5-MW exemption of 170 kW; and one conduit exemption of 1 MW.

The December 2013 update may be obtained at www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2013/dec-energy-infrastructure.pdf.

TVA has near-record demand during cold streak

The Tennessee Valley Authority met near-record-breaking demand for electricity on Jan. 24 by providing an estimated 33,345 MW. Precipitated in large part by average temperatures of 7 degrees across TVA's consumer base, the demand was the third highest in the agency's history.

TVA said 12% of the power was produced by hydro projects, with coal-fired plants adding 29%, natural gas 24%, nuclear plants 21%, power market purchases 12% and wind farms 2%.

The announcement comes just a day after TVA asked its power distributers and their 9 million customers to conserve energy during this cold spell, which follows one Jan. 7 during which there was 32,500 MW of demand.

TVA says its all-time peak demand record is 33,482 MW, set on Aug. 16, 2007, when temperatures averaged 102 degrees.

Droughts worrisome for California hydroelectric power operators

The effects of California's continuing drought are being felt by the state's utilities, many of which obtain at least a portion of their supply from hydroelectric power sources.

California governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency Jan. 17 in what could become the driest year in the state's recorded history, asking residents to reduce their water consumption by 20%. Water rationing is not mandatory yet, Brown said, although it may be implemented later.

The drought's impact on hydropower operators might force utilities to start looking toward other sources, according to market analysis group Fitch Ratings. According to Fitch, "eight of the Fitch-rated public power issuers receive between 10%-32% of their power supply from hydroelectric resources."

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows California relies on natural gas during low-water years. In 2011, hydroelectricity accounted for 21.3% of in-state power generation before decreasing to 13.8% in drier conditions. Natural gas generation increased from 45.4% to 61.1% in the same time frame.

FERC reports on work to implement new act

In a report on implementing new hydropower legislation, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff reports a handful of small project operators have taken steps to leave FERC jurisdiction or to extend the terms of their preliminary permits.

FERC staff reported to the commission Jan. 16 on actions taken to implement the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act (H.R.267). Soon after passage of H.R. 267, FERC staff updated the commission website to provide guidance on the new provisions. To date, the report said, FERC has received no applications by a private developer for a maximum 40-MW conduit exemption and no applications for a maximum 10-MW small hydropower exemption. However, FERC has approved requests for a number of qualifying conduits to be removed from FERC jurisdiction, as well as a number of requests for two-year preliminary permit extensions.

Chris Chaney of FERC staff reported the commission has received 18 notices of intent to exclude small conduit projects from FERC jurisdiction. Chaney said 16 have been approved, one was rejected because it did not meet criteria, and one is pending. "The approved projects ranging in size from 10 kW to 4.8 MW and projected to produce about 31,000 MWh annually are mostly located in the western United States," Chaney said. "... Staff expects to see a significant number of these filings in the future based on industry inquiries and comments."

FERC's Timothy Konnert said there are 270 active three-year preliminary permits that allow study of hydropower project sites. Of those, he said staff has received seven applications for two-year extension of permit terms. Two have been granted, three denied due to lack of diligence during the original term, and two are pending.

Konnert also reported on FERC's notice (No. AD13-9) inviting developers to propose pilot projects to test a two-year licensing process for hydropower development at existing non-powered dams and at closed-loop pumped-storage projects. Applications must be filed by May 5.

Corps awards many contracts for work at hydro plants, dams

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded several contracts for work to be performed at its dams and hydro facilities.

These include:

- A US$1.58 million contract to Hartman-Walsh Painting Co. to replace conduit coating and lining systems at the 75-MW Blakely Mountain project on Arkansas' Ouchita River.

- A US$9.5 million contract to Tetra Tech/Pond & Co. for architect-engineer services for military and civil works projects in the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, including flood damage reduction studies and designs, additions and repairs to locks and dams, geotechnical investigations, and levee and floodwall evaluation and design.

- A US$6.4 million contract to Northwest Hydraulic Consultant Inc. to provide hydrologic and hydraulic planning, analysis, modeling, software development and other services for the Corps' Hydrologic Engineering Center.

Proposals could impact production at 80-MW Denison

The Lake Texoma Association is requesting changes to water use laws that could affect hydroelectric generation at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Denison Dam.

The 80-MW plant, on the Red River along the Oklahoma/Texas line, impounds a lake that has a normal elevation of 616 feet, according to Corps data. But the area has experienced drought in recent years, causing Lake Texoma's level to fall to 609.2 feet.

Members of the association are asking for changes to a 1987 law governing generation to prevent levels from dipping further. Current laws dictate the Corps will only use Denison Dam's generation capabilities for "rapid response" and implement a public information program when Lake Texoma falls below 612 feet, with water conservation implemented and hydroelectric generation reserved for "critical needs" when it falls below 607 feet.

Changes proposed by the Lake Texoma Association would mean hydropower could only be generated for rapid response and brownouts at levels below 615 feet and only in emergency blackout situations at 609 feet. The group also wants all water removal from the lake stopped at 600 feet.

FERC final EIS backs relicensing 82.3-MW Toledo Bend project

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff issued a final environmental impact statement Dec. 20 recommending relicensing of the 81-MW Toledo Bend project on the Sabine River, including a 1.3-MW expansion unit for total installed capacity of 82.3 MW.

The final EIS generally follows terms of a draft EIS issued last year. The Sabine River Authority of Texas and Sabine River Authority, State of Louisiana, are joint licensees for the Toledo Bend project, located on the Texas-Louisiana border.

The authorities, which filed to relicense the project in 2011, propose to implement provisions of settlement agreements with the U.S. Forest Service on recreation, shoreline erosion, and invasive species and with other stakeholders on aquatic issues. They also propose to construct a 1.3-MW horizontal Francis minimum flow turbine-generator in a second powerhouse downstream of the spillway.

FERC staff recommended that the commission relicense the project as proposed by the authorities with a number of FERC staff modifications. If the project were relicensed with no changes, power would cost about $21.11 per MWh less than the cost of alternative power. Under the Sabine River authorities' proposal, power would cost $3.50/MWh less than alternative power. Under the FERC staff-endorsed alternative, power would cost $3.21/MWh less than alternative power.

The final EIS may be obtained at http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/common/OpenNat.asp?fileID=13419473.

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