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      M.H.K. in the U.S.A.

      August 28, 2013 3:30 PM by Michael Harris, Online Editor, HydroWorld.com

      Let's rewind a couple of weeks to August 9 -- a date of extreme significance for American hydropower as it marks the date President Barack Obama signed the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 and the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act into law.

      And though the enacment of each piece of legislature represents a significant victory for the conventional hydroelectric industry, they overshadow a bill that could ultimately prove as important for America's ocean, tidal and stream power sectors.

      Called the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Act of 2013, or officially, S. 1419, the legislation was introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in the days preceeding the current Congressional recess.

      S. 1419 has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for review, though that won't take place before the Senate reports back to Capitol Hill on September 9.

      The bill is designed to help commercialize marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technologies by streamlining permitting, and continuing research and development. Meanwhile, that the bill covers forms of energy produced by waves, currents, ocean tides and free-flowing water in lakes and rivers means most of the MHK spectrum is covered.

      The comprehensive nature of S. 1419 really seems to capture the underlying motivation for the legislation, which is, in my estimation at least, to close the gap with Europe in terms of MHK development and innovation.

      It's an audacious goal for sure -- especially considering the enviable state of Europe's MHK sector -- but given the estimated generating potential of America's coasts, rivers and lakes, I'd think domestic MHK development would be an avenue many would be anxious to explore.

      I suppose that's why I've been a bit surprised that there hasn't been more ballyhoo about S. 1419. After all, it seems as if MHK has, at an international level at least, been targeted by many within the industry as hydropower's "next big thing".

      So I'm curious for those in the U.S., is it just a general unfamiliarity with MHK that has caused it to be somewhat forgotten in discussions of American hydropower? Or is it something different altogether?

      And assuming it's possible to pinpoint any number of factors stunting American interest in MHK, what can be done to increase it?

      Or, is it simply that the U.S. has so many opportunities for conventional hydropower development that MHK options have, thus far, held little appeal?

      I'm interested to hear your opinions.

      Keeping a weather eye on FERC

      August 20, 2013 11:04 AM by Elizabeth Ingram, senior editor, Hydro Review and HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide

      One of my responsibilities as senior editor of the Hydro Group for PennWell is to keep the premium content subscribers on HydroWorld.com apprised with regard to hydro project activity taken by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

      This means, each and every week, I spend time reviewing FERC’s eLibrary, doing searches and reading orders and notices related to hydropower. Although this can be a lot of work -- and a lot of weeding through electronic documents -- it’s also a lot of fun because it allows me to “take the pulse,” so to speak, of all the activity going on around the permitting and licensing of hydroelectric facilities in the U.S.

      For months, the vast majority of the activity has related to permitting. We’ve had applications for preliminary permits and a lot of preliminary permits being issued. This is great, because it means a lot of companies are investigating the possibility of developing hydro plants.

      But, on the other hand, it is not so great because it means the vast majority of the work going on with regard to hydro in the U.S. relates to permits, not licenses. And it makes me wonder about the factors behind this trend.

      Recently, however, I’ve seen a bit of an uptick in licensing activity. In the past month, I’ve been able to add data to HydroWorld.com on licensing activity at five projects. With a total capacity of just over 14 MW, these aren’t big projects by any stretch of the imagination, but they ARE significant.

      Let me give you an example of a recent one, to illustrate my point.

      On Aug. 1, Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County in Washington filed an application for an operating license for its proposed 6-MW Calligan Creek Hydroelectric Project. Construction of this plant, on Calligan Creek in King County, would involve building a 14-foot-high diversion 110 feet long, a 1.2-mile-long penstock, and a powerhouse containing a 6-MW two-jet horizontal Pelton turbine-generator unit. When completed, the project would provide 20.7 GWh of electricity annually.

      This facility would be a great new source of hydropower generation, from a PUD that is known for its commitment to new development. In October 2011, the PUD’s 7.5-MW Youngs Creek hydro project began operating in Washington State, after a development timeline of 2.5 years and a total cost of $29 million. This was the first new hydroelectric plant built in the state in nearly 20 years, but clearly it won’t be the last.

      The schedule submitted with the application for the Calligan Creek project calls for FERC to issue the final environmental analysis for this project in January 2015.

      Does this recent upswing in hydro licensing activity portend a renaissance for hydropower development in the U.S.? It’s much too soon to tell, but I can’t help being a bit optimistic, especially in light of President Barack Obama’s recent signing of two hydroelectric power bills.

      What do you think? Is your company moving forward on new development work? Where? Why? Tell us what you think is going on and what you see for the future of new U.S. hydro.

      P.S. For those of you who might be wondering what the heck I’m talking about when I mention “premium content subscribers,” the editors of HydroWorld.com offer a subscription-based service that provides access to business opportunities worldwide, as well as FERC news and details on decisions issued by FERC pertaining to licensing and permitting for U.S. non-federal hydropower projects. Learn more here.

      Going medieval for hydropower

      August 6, 2013 6:48 PM by Michael Harris, Online Editor, HydroWorld.com

      To the unitard-clad harlequin in Larkspur, Colo. -- I must apologize.

      You see, I wasn't laughing at you.

      Well. Maybe I should clarify.

      I mean, I was laughing at you while you were doing somersaults, juggling flaming clubs and doing all the other things befitting a jester of the Good King Henry's court… but I wasn't laughing at you when you saw me looking curiously at the Colorado Renaissance Festival's massive waterwheel and asked if I was aware that water has many uses aside from drinking and bathing.

      You couldn't possibly have known that my presence at the renaissance fair (or is it faire?) was entirely predicated by my desire to kill the afternoon preceding the world's largest gathering of hydroelectric industry professionals.

      So, if a few errant giggles escaped when you very proudly boasted that water could be used to power everything from iron forges to gristmills to weaving looms, I'm sorry.

      Knowing my purpose in Colorado was for HydroVision International 2013, however, perhaps now you understand my suggestion that water might also be powering the deep-fryers used to cook Ye Olde Funnel Cakes, the refrigerators used to cool Ye Olde Coors Lite, and the ovens used to roast gigantic Ye Olde Turkey Legs.

      That water has been an important an important source of energy from times of Greek antiquity through the Dark Ages, Renaissance, Industrial Revolution, Space Age and beyond is more than a slight testament to its continued value and relevancy.

      And now if you'll excuse the sort of awkward transition that would make my journalism professors cringe, allow me to segue into the second part of today's blog entry.

      I'm assuming most have heard the good news out of Washington, D.C.

      If not, take a quick gander over here, pop a bottle of your finest mead, and come back when you've finished celebrating.

      To recap though -- the U.S. Senate has unanimously approved both the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act (House Resolution 267) and the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act (H.R. 678).

      Each piece of legislation is designed to improve conditions for domestic hydroelectric development by streamlining the federal regulatory process for certain types of projects, and each should be considered a major coup for the hydropower industry.

      Both H.R. 267 and 678 were significant points of emphasis during HydroVision International, though neither had yet come up for Senate voting.

      In fact, when discussing the likelihood of either bill appearing before the Senate in the days preceding the five-week Congressional recess that began July 26, I was told by many in the Capitol Hill loop that the odds were not favorable.

      Accordingly, the message that was repeated from Alan Krause's remarks in the opening keynote to Gary Hart's speech during the closing luncheon was consistent -- the hydropower industry must be proactive in promoting its many virtues in national discussions about renewable commodities.

      This is particularly significant given President Barack Obama's recently released Climate Action Plan, which emphasizes the importance of all forms of renewable power generation in decreasing the nation's carbon emissions.

      When coupled with federal legislation like H.R. 267 and H.R. 678 then, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say hydropower has never been poised to play a more significant role in America's energy mix than it is now.

      And even though the passage of H.R. 267 and 678 is a testament to years of diligence by more people I can even begin to name, it by no means marks the end of the proverbial journey.

      The message delivered time and time again at HydroVision still rings true, however -- that the hydropower industry must be proactive in promoting its many virtues in national discussions about renewable commodities.

      Now more than ever, the onus falls on the industry to ensure America's politicians, power generators, and energy users don't forget the role hydro power has played and continues to play.

      I am continually surprised by the number of educated consumers who have a rudimentary knowledge of solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and other forms of renewable generation, yet know little -- if anything -- about hydro power.

      Even amongst those familiar with hydro, the general perception seems to be that the vast majority of America's projects have more in common with Grand Coulee than not, and many are genuinely surprised in learning such isn't the reality.

      Also surprising to many is the revelation that much of the infrastructure needed for significant amounts of hydroelectric development already exists, and that, according to the National Hydropower Association, this unused infrastructure could eventually add a cumulative 60,000 MW of new capacity to the nation's grid.

      Add in the fact much of this infrastructure falls under areas affected by H.R. 678 and many plant proposals might qualify for expedited licensing under H.R. 267, and suddenly, I've found many people from outside the industry start asking the same question we working in it have been asking for years: Why isn't hydropower more of an emphasis?

      If I might make a humble suggestion then, it would be that the industry needs to be more like the jester.

      It isn't enough that legislation exists for hydroelectric development if the industry isn't doing its part to make decision makers aware of it, and now that America's politicians have set the table for a hydropower boom, I will reiterate once more -- the industry must be proactive in promoting its many virtues in national discussions about renewable commodities

      Coming back full-circle to the spandex-wearing gentleman in Larkspur, engaging the general public must become more of a priority lest the bills that sit on President Obama's desk be enacted for naught. 

      Diamond-print leggings and frilled-shirts are, of course, optional -- but for the good of the industry, the jester's enthusiasm for sharing cannot be.