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      Happy Thanksgiving

      November 27, 2013 11:35 AM by MichaelH

      A day from now I imagine I will be laying on my couch in sweatpants, watching football and wallowing in self-pity for having gorged on too much turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and all the other accoutrements associated with Thanksgiving.

      For those in our international audience, the American version of Thanksgiving is thought to be a derivative of a celebration that first took place during the early 1620s in Plymouth, Mass., which was, as the name might suggest, a day reserved for "giving thanks".

      It seems prudent then that we at HydroWorld.com take a brief moment to reflect on all the hydroelectric industry has to give thanks for this past year, and for all our friends around the globe, we hope you have as much to be thankful for as we do.

      This year has been an exciting year for hydro power both at home in the U.S. and abroad, and though there have most certainly been downs, it feels like we've got a lot more to celebrate than lament.

      So, that said, Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at HydroWorld.com, and Hydro Review and HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide magazines.

      We hope all of you have as much to be thankful for as we do, and we hope the coming year gives us just as much to celebrate in 2014.

      Pumped storage in the spotlight

      November 20, 2013 10:49 AM by Elizabeth Ingram, senior editor, Hydro Review and HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide

      I have always found pumped-storage hydropower to be a fascinating technology.

      According to Wikipedia, the first use of pumped storage was in the 1890s in Italy and Switzerland. And the first pumped-storage plant built in the U.S. was in 1930 by the Connecticut Electric and Power Company, using a reservoir near New Milford, Ct., and pumping water from the Housatonic River. Reversible turbine-generator units became available in the 1930s.

      Since that time, pumped storage has evolved significantly. There is a fascinating pumped-storage plant in Okinawa, Japan, that uses the Philippine Sea as its lower reservoir. And in May, Norwegian scientists unveiled a concept for a pumped-storage facility on the ocean floor!

      A new technology that is showing a great deal of promise for existing as well as new pumped-storage facilities is variable speed units. With these units, the speed can be varied through a frequency converter, allowing a change in the discharge/power in pump mode. And in turbine mode, the unit can operate at peak efficiency over a larger portion of its operating range. By comparison, with fixed speed units, there is only one operating point for a given head. This technology has been used for several years, particularly in Japan, and shows promise in dealing with the rapid growth of intermittent power sources, such as wind and solar.

      Pumped storage is enjoying some time in the spotlight these days, due in part to the fact that it is the only technology available to store electricity economically and on a large scale. Sure, there are other storage options available, and these include batteries and compressed air. However, a study recently released by scientists at Stanford University revealed that when looking at energy return on investment of wind and solar resources, large-scale geologically based storage technologies such as pumped-storage hydro and compressed air provide a much higher return than electrochemically based storage technologies such as batteries. The obvious limitation with compressed air storage is the fact that there are only two operating plants of this type in the world according to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the largest having a capacity of 290 MW.

      Compare this with the sheer number and size of pumped-storage projects being built worldwide. For example, Indonesia is working on construction of the 1,040-MW Upper Cisokan project on the Cisokan River in West Java. In October, an inauguration ceremony was held to mark the completion of the 2,000-MW La Muela project in Spain’s Jucar River Basin. And in September, Quarry Battery Company received planning permission to develop the 49.4-MW Glyn Rhonwy project in a former slate mine in Wales.

      Another boost to pumped storage, in the U.S., is recent legislation passed that requires the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to examine a two-year licensing process for closed-loop pumped-storage projects. FERC defines closed loop as those projects that are not continuously connected to a naturally flowing water feature.

      Interest is reviving in this country when it comes to pumped-storage development, with many potential locations being studied. Moriah Hydro Corp. filed a draft hydropower license application with FERC in October for the 260-MW Mineville project in New York. This project would be located completely underground in an abandoned mine complex. In August, Hydro Green LLC filed an application for a preliminary permit for the 1,270-MW Fort Ross project in California, which would use water from the Pacific Ocean.

      There are SO many issues being discussed around pumped storage right now that I haven’t even touched on. These include how this technology can be compensated for the grid-supporting services it provides (I hear California is working to establish a framework for long-term payments for storage), whether pumped storage can be considered renewable (given that it uses power from the grid during pumping mode and this power may come from fossil-fueled facilities), and how to minimize environmental effects (the closed-loop aspect mentioned above being one solution).

      What is your opinion of pumped-storage hydro? Do you see it as a valuable storage resource? If so, what are the obstacles you think need to be overcome to further its development, both in the U.S. and globally? What are the issues I didn’t touch on that are integral to the debate surrounding this hydro technology? Give me your feedback so we can further the discussion.

      Leaving a legacy

      November 15, 2013 1:35 PM by Bethany Duarte, Associate editor of Hydro Review

      As an amateur historian, I enjoy collecting random history facts that I can pull from the recesses of my memory at the perfect moment to insert into any discussion. Recently, hydropower fulfilled my daily quota of historical knowledge.

      The benefit to covering an industry with roots more than 100 years deep in mechanical and engineering history is witnessing historic events, moments, and milestones that any journalist is grateful to cover. In this case, I was intrigued when I saw that the Kaplan turbine was conceived 100 years ago on August 7, 1913.

      As one of my first questions upon entering the industry was “what is the difference between all these turbines?” I found myself typing Kaplan on a daily basis in my work, which spoke loudly of the large role the technology plays in hydroelectric power generation, an accomplishment that I am sure Viktor Kaplan would be quite proud of.

      Viktor Kaplan registered his Kaplan turbine patent, described as an adjustable blade propeller turbine, in August of 1913 in Austria. He first tested his technology with a demonstration unit installed in Podebrady, Czechoslovakia, but faced a lot of issues with heavy cavitation on the unit. While he stopped researching in 1922, Voith kept working on the technology and produced a unit for use in a river the same year. By 1928, Voith had installed four Kaplan turbines at the 120-MW Rheinkraftwerk Ryburg-Schwörstadt plant in Rheinfelden, Switzerland.

      To celebrate the technology’s centennial, Viktor Kaplan’s great-grandson Roland Athenstaedt and his sons visited one of Viktor’s workplaces and a hub of early research on the Kaplan unit: Voith in Heidenheim, Germany, says a release by Voith.

      “My children are currently looking at forms of renewable energy at school. I therefore thought it would be a good idea to explain hydropower to them and show them the company where their great-great-grandfather had carried out research,” commented Athenstaedt, who took a tour of the Heidenheim facility, including the production department and test and development center. The facility that saw the early tests of the equipment still continues to produce Kaplan turbines today.

      To an outsider, this is a symbol of the longstanding benefits and impact of hydropower, not only in regards to the lifespan of the infrastructure, but to the legacy it leaves behind.

      I would love to hear any stories of the legacy hydro leaves on past generations. Did a trip to Hoover dam as a child inspire your love for dam safety or engineering? Tell me your hydro legacy below. 

      Thoughts on a national renewable portfolio standard

      November 8, 2013 1:43 PM by Michael Harris, Online Editor, HydroWorld.com

      With a pair of federal renewable portfolio standards submitted to the Senate within just days of each other during the last week of October, I thought it might be a good idea to compare the two in terms of what they would do for the hydropower industry.

      The first -- introduced to Congress on October 29 by senators Mark Udall, Tom Udall and Ben Cardin -- is called the Renewable Electricity Standard Act of 2013 (or officially Senate Bill 1595).

      The second -- the American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act (S.B. 1627) -- was introduced two days later by Sen. Edward Markey.

      Both bills include provisions that would require utilities to obtain a minimum of 25% of their energy from renewable sources by 2025, and, most significantly for this industry, hydroelectric power is included in each.

      The most significant difference between the two -- as it pertains solely to hydropower -- lies in the manner in which piece of legislation defines project eligibility.

      S.B. 1595 states that hydropower projects to be included in the national renewable portfolio standard (RPS) must be "additional generation that is achieved from increased efficiency or additions of capacity made on or after A) the date of enactment of [S.B. 595's] section; or B) the effective date of an existing applicable state renewable portfolio standard program at a hydroelectric facility that was placed in service before that date".

      In other words, existing hydroelectric capacity would not be counted towards a utility's "base quantity of electricity" unless it was already considered "renewable" under a given state's standard.

      Meanwhile, S.B. 1627 uses Jan. 1, 2001, as its cutoff date for eligible hydropower plants, though it adds the caveat that it "does not include additional energy generated as a result of operational changes not directly associated with efficiency improvements or capacity additions".

      I have heard some cry foul in saying the bills would harm hydroelectric development by putting hydro on an uneven playing field with solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and other forms of renewables that the legislation would presumably benefit, but frankly, the fact that hydro is even included should be chalked up as a victory for the industry.

      To me, hydro's inclusion reflects changing attitudes toward it as a means of green power production, so though its inclusion in renewable portfolio standards at the state level has often been a source of controversy, its prominence in both Senate proposals indicates rather definitively that hydro power has gained acceptance at the federal level.

      Hydro's resurgence in the minds of America's policy makers is further evidenced in the passage of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 (House Resolution 267) and Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act (H.R. 678) -- both of which were signed into law by President Barack Obama in August, and both of which emphasize the potential for hydroelectric development at existing federally-owned infrastructure.

      It would seem to me then that both S.B. 1595 and S.B. 1627 would only serve as boons for hydropower -- especially given the avenues for development opened by H.R. 267 and H.R. 678.

      In fact, I would argue that the cutoff dates included in both Senate proposals are actually more beneficial to the hydropower industry than if all existing projects were included in the national RPS since they actually encourage new development.

      And though they most certainly open the doors for other renewables as well, I can't help but think hydropower has a lot of things going its way when it comes time for utilities to determine how they're going to increase their green power output.

      Crickets are chirping

      November 1, 2013 3:39 PM by Bethany Duarte, Associate Editor of Hydro Review and HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide

      While it is a bit challenging to follow up on fellow editor Elizabeth Ingram’s blog post last week covering the best of the best (or worst) in dam humor, I will make a valiant effort. After chuckling at some awful hydro jokes, I realized that the appeal of Elizabeth’s blog is a wonderful reflection on our industry.

      As I mentioned in a previous blog, I see this industry as a perfect mix of expertise and humor. The sense of community is unparalleled, and it’s obvious when you read the comfortable tone we take when chatting with you via this blog.

      As a result, I was a bit surprised when I saw no comments or responses to the blog, and more surprisingly, no additional jokes added. I KNOW you all have some more humorous one-liners in your repertoire.

      When the hydro editors first brought up the idea of having a weekly blog, one of our goals was to facilitate conversation, to keep the talk going online in between shows, meetings, e-mails, and phone calls. As HydroWorld.com is the online community for the hydropower industry, what better place is there to start a dialogue about anything and everything hydro (including jokes and sarcastic commentary to brighten all of our days).

      It also gives each of us editors the opportunity to have our own voice and show our own thoughts on the industry. If you pay attention to our posts, we each have our own little sector that we like to talk about and feel confident discussing. It’s a great break from our more technical work, and as Elizabeth mentioned, a great way to delve into the creative parts of our brains.

      The tricky thing about dialogue is it requires multiple voices. So far, the crickets have been chirping pretty loudly. This is where you come in!

      We love receiving comments on our blogs and on our regular news stories as well. Agree? Disagree? Want to bring up another topic we didn’t include? We want to hear about it.

      So scroll down just a bit, place your cursor in the box below and let us know what you think!