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Apple acquires 45-Mile hydropower project

Electronics giant Apple has acquired a small hydroelectric plant near the company's data center in Prineville, Ore. The 45-Mile project was being developed by EBD Hydro LLC until Apple began expressing interest in the plant this past December.

The acquisition is part of Apple's commitment to powering its resources with green energy. "Our goal is to power every facility at Apple entirely with energy from renewable sources - solar, wind, hydro and geothermal," the California-based company said. "So we're investing in our own onsite energy production, establishing relationships with suppliers to procure renewable energy off the grid, and reducing our energy needs even as our employee base grows."

EBD Hydro was awarded a US$1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of the Interior in January 2012 to install three 1-MW in-pipe generating units as part of the project. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued EBD Hydro a conduit exemption from licensing for the 45-Mile project in 2010. It is expected to have a capacity of 3 to 5 MW, using irrigation water diverted from the Deschutes and Crooked rivers.

FERC ordered to restrict sensitive power system data

The Energy Department's Office of Inspector General has ordered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to take immediate steps to protect national security information pertaining to the bulk power system, which in some cases includes hydroelectric facilities.

DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman issued a management alert April 9 recommending immediate steps by FERC Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur. LaFleur, who, along with members of Congress, requested the inspector general's review, committed to taking all needed action to strengthen the commission's information security processes. Friedman's review was initiated in response to an alleged leak of modeling studies exposing power grid vulnerabilities and non-public information relating to the investigation of an April 2013 attack on Pacific Gas & Electric's Metcalf Transmission Substation in California.

The sniper attack on the Metcalf substation has been considered a possible test by terrorists of the vulnerability of the bulk power system. PG&E is offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to conviction of the perpetrators and is investing $100 million in the next three years on substation security.

Investigation of the alleged leak, exposing power grid vulnerabilities, is the result of a March Wall Street Journal article that included details of the FERC modeling studies.

Friedman said his department confirmed at least one electric grid-related presentation created by FERC staff should have been classified and protected from release. He said the presentation had been viewed and handled by commission staff who might not have had security clearances, had been maintained on portable electronic equipment and transmitted via insecure means, and might have been provided to federal and industry officials in unclassified settings.

The inspector general directed FERC to move immediately to protect the information in question, to seek assistance from appropriate agencies to ensure such information is properly classified, to apprise all handlers of such material of their duty to protect it, and to segregate and secure all classified information it might discover.

NYPA to relicense 1,160-MW pumped-storage facility

The New York Power Authority filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on April 10 a notice of a plan to seek a new license for the 1,160-MW Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Project. The project's license expires April 30, 2019. Concurrently with the filing of the notice of intent to seek a new license, NYPA filed a pre-application document for that relicensing.

The project consists of an upper reservoir and dike, a lower reservoir and dam, conduits connecting the reservoirs and an underground powerhouse, spillways, and related facilities.

In 2010, NYPA completed life extension and modernization efforts at the project. The four turbine-generator units were rebuilt, with most of their mechanical and electrical components being replaced and repairs made to virtually all other parts. The units now have a generating capacity of 290 MW each. Other work involved with that rehab included replacement of main power transformers, circuit breakers, exciters and related equipment.

"The Blenheim-Gilboa project plays a valuable role in the security and reliability of New York State's bulk electric power system ... while also being linked to important recreational, tourism, economic and environmental benefits for the Schoharie Valley," said Lynn Hait, regional manager for Central New York with NYPA. "A new license will allow the Power Authority ... to continue providing important energy reliability and community benefits to local residents and the people of New York State."

NYPA expects to submit its application for a new license in April 2017.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on HydroWorld.com sister site GenerationHub.com.

Senate committee approves tax credit extension

A bill that would extend tax credits for hydroelectric power was approved in early April by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. The bill, called the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency Act, or EXPIRE, includes a two-year extension of production tax credits and investment tax credits for hydropower and other renewable energy technologies.

Per present law, "qualified energy resources" including some hydroelectric, and marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) energy received 1.1 cent per kWh through Dec. 31, 2013.

The bill's approval by the committee is being lauded by the National Hydropower Association, which said the tax credit has helped spur dozens of hydro project improvements. "Since 2005, over 120 upgrades have been financed in part by these incentives, resulting in an average 10% generation increase," NHA Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci said. "As we look to meet the nation's energy, environmental and economic challenges, hydropower will have a vital role to play and the production tax credit encourages developers to continue its expansion."

Contractor selected for 36.4-MW Red Rock project

Missouri River Energy Services' Board of Directors and Western Minnesota Power Agency have selected Ames Construction Inc. as general contractor for the 36.4-MW Red Rock project.

The plant, which will be built along existing U.S. Army Corps of Engineer infrastructure on the Des Moines River, was granted its final two approvals by the Corps in March. MRES said one proposal was related to the 408 and 404 processes. The 408 permit ensures the plant will not impact the Corps' operations at Red Rock Dam, while the 404 permit covers dredge and fill operations for the project.

MRES includes 61 municipal utilities from Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota, while WMMPA is made up of MRES members in Minnesota. WMMPA will provide financing for the project on behalf of MRES.

The project will be equipped with Voith Hydro turbines and have a maximum capacity of 55 MW at certain times of the year when water is available, although it is licensed at 36.4 MW.

Red Rock is to be operational by late 2016, MRES said.

Manitoba Hydro selects consortium to construct 695-MW Keeyask plant

A team led by engineering firm Bechtel has been awarded a US$1.25 billion contract from Manitoba Hydro to construct the 695-MW Keeyask plant. The consortium - BBE Hydro Constructors Limited Partnership - includes Bechtel, Barnard Construction and EllisDon. The group could begin work on the plant by the end of the year, with Keeyask generating power in 2019. Completion is targeted for 2020.

"Every one of these companies is a leader in their field, and as a group we think they offer real value to the Keeyask Hydropower Limited Partnership and Manitoba Hydro in terms of ensuring that this project is completed safely - as well as on time and on budget," Manitoba Hydro Vice President Bruce Barrett said.

Bechtel built the 1,340-MW Limestone plant, located downstream from Keeyask, in the early 1990s. BBE will be responsible for building a seven-unit powerhouse, earthen structures, rock excavation, electrical and mechanical work, and the construction and removal of temporary cofferdams.

Keeyask being developed in partnership with Tatskweyak, Fox Lake, War Lake and York Factory first nations groups along the Lower Nelson River in northern Manitoba.

A memorandum of understanding was signed in February to investigate the sale of power generated at Keeyask to American power cooperative Great River Energy.

DOE announces notices of intent for MHK, conventional hydro technology

The U.S. Department of Energy has issued three notices of intent to fund research for marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) and conventional hydropower technologies. They include:

- Marine and Hydrokinetic Research and Development University Consortium: This funding opportunity is intended to support a university consortium "to leverage existing in-situ Research and Development (R&D) to advance U.S. Marine and Hydrokinetic (MHK) technology, while developing intellectual capital for a globally-competitive workforce." DOE said the project will address strategic opportunities in its MHK development portfolio.

- Water Power Manufacturing: Issued by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy on behalf of the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office (WWPTO), this funding opportunity will support the "application of advanced materials and advanced manufacturing techniques to the development of new hydropower technologies." DOE notes that there is a significant opportunity to increase hydroelectric power generation at low-head sites, and that new technologies will help tap that potential.

- Competitive Marine and Hydrokinetic Demonstrations at the Navy's Wave Energy Test Site: WWPTO will issue a funding opportunity to test, evaluate and compare multiple close-to-full-scale wave energy conversion systems at the Navy's Wave Energy Test Site and will help identify and focus on "the most promising device archetypes."

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