Hydropower, Storage

Hydro Currents

Issue 2 and Volume 28.

PennWell acquires assets of HCI

PennWell Corp., a diversified global information company, announced it acquired the assets of HCI Publications Inc., a Kansas City, Mo.-based producer of magazines, conferences, and exhibitions serving the hydroelectric industry. HCI assets include Hydro Review and HRW magazines, the Internet-based hydropower news service HydroNews.net, the HydroVision and Waterpower conferences and exhibitions, and other hydropower-related research and information products. Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed. The owners of HCI Publications, Leslie Eden and Carl Vansant, will serve as consultants to PennWell. Additionally, seven HCI editorial and sales employees joined PennWell, continuing to work from the Kansas City offices. Oklahoma-based PennWell will manage the business from its headquarters in Tulsa under Richard Baker, Vice President, Global Energy Group. “PennWell is pleased to add these outstanding publications and events to our expanding renewable energy portfolio since hydropower is an essential vertical extension for our renewable energy franchise,” PennWell President and Chief Executive Officer Robert F. Biolchini said. HCI President Leslie Eden expressed confidence in PennWell as the best home for growth of the publications and events. “We are honored that PennWell, as the world’s leading and most respected provider of information to multiple energy markets, will advance the international reach and development of our products and services for hydropower,” Eden said.

Stimulus incentives include hydro

The U.S. House passed an $816 billion economic stimulus bill Jan. 28 containing $20 billion in energy tax credits and incentives that are part of President Obama’s plan to revive the American economy. About $13 billion is for three-year extension of production tax credits for renewable energy, including incremental hydropower and energy from ocean and hydrokinetic sources. Because many renewables projects are having difficulty finding financing in current markets, the bill would allow projects in place in 2009 and 2010 to temporarily claim a 30 percent investment tax credit instead of the production tax credit. The bill also would authorize $1.6 billion in new Clean Renewable Energy Bonds to finance public power renewables. A Senate committee advanced its own stimulus bill Jan. 27, containing $31 billion in tax credits and financial incentives to boost alternative energy supplies. The full Senate held extensive debate on its version of the stimulus bill, trimming some provisions to avoid a filibuster by Republican opponents.

Obama fills posts affecting hydro

President Obama appointed a series of Cabinet and administrative officials who control aspects of U.S. hydropower development and operation. He named Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., a former environmental lawyer, to be secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Obama appointed physicist Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and advocate of alternative energy research, to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. Other appointees include: Lisa Jackson, chief of staff for New Jersey’s governor, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Carol Browner, former EPA chief, to lead a White House Council on Energy, Climate, and Environmental Issues; and Nancy Sutley, Los Angeles deputy mayor for energy and environment, to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality. In the face of a legal inquiry, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his proposed nomination for secretary of the Commerce Department, which includes NOAA Fisheries.

Newfoundland to seize Abitibi hydro

Premier Danny Williams announced the government of Newfoundland and Labrador will expropriate AbititiBowater Inc.’s timber rights and hydroelectric assets when the paper maker closes its last newsprint mill in the province in 2009. Williams announced the action in a December message to the Legislature after AbitibiBowater indicated it would permanently close its mill in Grand Falls-Windsor due to declining demand. A 1905 lease agreement with Newfoundland gave Abitibi the access to timber and water rights for producing paper. Projects include 30-MW Beeton, 45-MW Grand Falls-Windsor, 20-MW Bishop’s Falls, and 18-MW Star Lake. AbitibiBowater considered legal action to prevent the seizure. In Ontario, AbitibiBowater reached preliminary agreement to sell its 75 percent stake in hydro owner ACH Limited Partnership to an unnamed buyer for C$540 million (US$443 million). Ontario projects include 12.8-MW Fort Frances, 25.2-MW Iroquois Falls, 47-MW Island Falls, and 22-MW Twin Falls.

Wellinghoff named FERC chairman

President Obama named Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff acting chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Jan. 23. Wellinghoff, a Nevada independent, replaces Joseph Kelliher, a Washington, D.C., Republican, who resigned as chairman Jan. 7. Kelliher, whose term as commissioner is to end June 30, 2012, said he would remain on the panel while looking for a new job. Commissioners Philip Moeller of Washington and Marc Spitzer of Arizona also are Republicans. The fifth member, Suedeen Kelly of New Mexico, is a Democrat. In 2008, Wellinghoff challenged the hydro industry to develop at least 90,000 MW of new hydropower by 2030, calling projections of a possible 23,000 MW of new hydro by 2025 too conservative.

Kelliher: Talks should include FERC

Outgoing Chairman Joseph Kelliher warns parties to include Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff when negotiating complicated settlement agreements for licensing of some hydroelectric projects. If commission staff members are not involved in a complicated license proceeding, there is a greater probability the ultimate settlement will include terms that cannot be included in a FERC license, Kelliher said at a December briefing. Such instances, he added, could require FERC to modify a license and sever certain terms of a settlement. In 2006, FERC issued a policy statement providing guidance on the types of settlement agreement terms that can be included in FERC licenses without incurring subsequent modification by the commission.

PPL cancels Holtwood Expansion

PPL Corp. canceled plans to develop the 88.3-MW Holtwood Expansion hydroelectric project on Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River, citing unfavorable economic conditions. PPL withdrew an application filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the Holtwood Expansion, effectively canceling the addition to the 107.2-MW Holtwood hydroelectric project. Estimated construction costs had grown to $440 million from $300 million, PPL said. The high cost of capital has significantly affected the economics of large construction projects like Holtwood Expansion.

Ontario extends hydro site applications

Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is extending indefinitely the deadline for new applications and expressions of interest for waterpower site development. The previous deadline was Dec. 10, 2008. MNR supports new hydropower generation by providing opportunities to develop sites on government-owned land where no dams exist, and by using existing government-owned dams for generation of electricity. Announcements about the solicitation are available on the ministry’s Renewable Extranet site, at www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Renewable.

U.S. rejects Yakima storage, hydro

A final study of water storage options for Washington’s Yakima River Basin concludes it is better to do nothing than to develop the Black Rock Alternative, a water project that would have included two new hydropower plants. The Yakima River Basin Water Storage Feasibility Study Final Planning Report/Environmental Impact Statement evaluated Black Rock, two other alternatives for creating additional water storage, and a “no action” alternative. “None of the alternatives adequately met the criteria or were economically justified,” Gerald Kelso, manager of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper Columbia Area Office, said. The $4.5 billion Black Rock Reservoir was the only alternative that would provide hydropower benefits, generating a net $3 million annually.

Lawsuit: Taum Sauk breach fouled lake

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers filed suit against the operator of Missouri’s 408-MW Taum Sauk pumped-storage project, saying the 2005 failure of the project’s upper reservoir dumped an unknown amount of sediment and debris into the Corps’ Clearwater Lake. The Corps filed suit in December in U.S. District Court at Cape Girardeau, seeking damages from Union Electric Co., doing business as AmerenUE, the hydro project licensee. A Corps spokeswoman said the lawsuit was filed two days before a statute of limitations expired, preserving the Corps’ right to pursue a claim. AmerenUE said it was unaware of any evidence that sediment from the breach affected Clearwater Lake’s operational capacity.

Renewables event features Hoover tour

A special treat for hydro industry delegates – a hard-hat tour of 2,078-MW Hoover Dam – is featured at the Renewable Energy World Conference & Expo North America, March 10-12 in Las Vegas. Renewable Energy World Conference & Expo North America, formerly POWER-GEN Renewable Energy and Fuels, offers sessions dealing with renewable energies including the hydroelectric, ocean/tidal/wave, wind, solar, biomass, bio-power, and bio-fuels hydrogen sectors. The opening session March 10 features a roundtable discussion by renewable energy association leaders, including Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci of the National Hydropower Association. The hydro track features sessions on meeting new energy demand in North America and lessons learned in ocean, tidal, and hydrokinetic projects. The Hoover Dam Hard Hat Tour takes place March 9, during a day of pre-conference activity. The conference is owned and produced by PennWell. For details and registration information, see the conference Internet site, http://rewna09.events.pennnet.com.

Hydro Currents is compiled by the staff of HydroNews.net, a product of PennWell Corporation, the world’s leading provider of hydro information. To subscribe, call (1) 816-931-1311, or visit the Internet: www.hcipub.com


Hydro Currents

Issue 1 and Volume 27.

Congress allots $10 million for DOE hydro R&D

Congress approved an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government through next September, including $10 million to restart the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) dormant hydropower research and development program. The bill supports the department’s advanced hydropower turbine program and directs funds to explore the energy and environmental benefits of deploying new hydropower technologies. The DOE Hydropower Program, now called the Water Power Energy R&D Program, will use the funds to conduct research on conventional hydropower and innovative hydropower technologies, such as thermal and wave technologies, for ocean, tidal, and in-stream generation. In the wake of a period of zero funding, the National Hydropower Association called the renewed funding a major victory for the hydro industry and for the continued growth of renewable domestic energy in the U.S.

Industry looks to 2008 to extend tax incentives

Although Congress failed to extend tax incentives for hydro and ocean technologies, a spokesman for the National Hydropower Association (NHA) says the industry will renew efforts in 2008 to extend the tax provisions. “With the tax title removed, both the long-term extension of the Section 45 production tax credit and the additional funds for the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds program have been stripped out,” NHA spokesman Jeff Leahey said of energy bill action. Leahey said one bright spot remained, in the form of a marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy title. “This new program specifically authorizes a federal research and development program for ocean, tidal, and in-stream hydrokinetic technologies, as well as conduit power applications and ocean thermal energy conversion devices,” the NHA official said. “It also establishes ocean energy research centers to test equipment and support demonstration projects.”

Canada eyes exports from Lower Churchill

Three Canadian energy companies announced they will explore options for exporting power from the proposed 2,824-MW Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in Labrador to Canada’s Maritime provinces and to New England in the United States. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, Emera Inc., and Emera subsidiary Nova Scotia Power Inc. signed a memorandum of understanding to study the technical, economic, financial, and regulatory aspects of exporting project power. Following a preliminary assessment, the parties are to decide if there is merit in advancing potential joint initiatives. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is considering comments on draft guidelines for preparing an environmental statement on Lower Churchill. The project includes 2,000-MW Gull Island and 824-MW Muskrat Falls on the lower Churchill River.

Senate reconfirms Kelliher, Wellinghoff to FERC

The Senate reconfirmed Chairman Joseph Kelliher and Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff by unanimous consent to new terms on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). President Bush named Kelliher, a Republican, in March 2007 to a second five-year term ending June 30, 2012, and reappointed him chairman of FERC. Bush renominated Wellinghoff, a registered independent, Dec. 11, 2007, with the Senate Energy Committee endorsing his nomination Dec. 18, making him eligible for consideration by the full Senate. Wellinghoff’s new term ends June 30, 2013. While the Energy Committee endorsed Kelliher’s nomination in May, the Republican’s name was not brought before the full Senate until Dec. 19, when the Senate considered Wellinghoff, who originally was recommended for FERC by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Vermont urges steps to support small hydro

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (VANR) is urging state lawmakers to update an inventory of potential hydropower sites at existing non-hydro dams and to investigate additional opportunities to increase generation at existing hydropower projects. Reviewing a 1980 New England River Basins Commission report, the agency said a total of 25 MW of new hydroelectric capacity could be added to 44 existing non-hydro dams in the state. However, in a 72-page report to the Legislature, VANR urged lawmakers to fund an updated study, which it called essential for identifying the best opportunities, both ecologically and economically, for new hydropower development. The agency also said the Department of Public Service should work with Vermont utilities to investigate opportunities for increasing production at existing hydro projects. VANR also called for funding to create a comprehensive guide to small hydropower development, focusing on projects with installed capacities of up to 100 kW.

FERC hydrokinetic policy to speed licensing

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a policy statement under which it plans to expedite license issuance for hydrokinetic projects generating electricity from currents, ocean waves, and tides. Unlike its standard hydropower licenses, which cannot be issued until all terms and conditions are submitted by state and federal resource agencies, FERC said it plans to issue conditional hydrokinetic project licenses quickly, without waiting for authorizations from other agencies. However, the statement said, the hydrokinetic licenses would be conditioned to prevent a licensee from actually starting construction until it obtains all necessary authorizations. The statement said estimates suggest new hydrokinetic technologies could double U.S. hydropower production. FERC also issued its first license for a hydrokinetic energy project, the 1-MW Makah Bay Offshore Wave Pilot Project proposed for the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington. The decision gives licensee Finavera Renewables Ocean Energy Ltd. a conditioned five-year license.

New Brookfield unit pursues 36 new projects

Hydropower operator Brookfield Power is expanding into the development of new hydro projects in 15 U.S. states with the creation of a new affiliate, BPUS Generation Development LLC. Brookfield Power’s previous emphasis in the United States has been on making incremental improvements at existing hydroelectric projects. The new enterprise is pursuing at least 36 new hydro plants in the U.S. totaling more than 810 MW, including the 280-MW Mulqueeney Ranch Pumped-Storage project in California. Mulqueeney Ranch is the first of the new projects to obtain a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Still pending are applications filed by BPUS for 35 other projects ranging from 5 MW to 63 MW, and located in Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia. The projects are located on river systems that include the Allegheny, Mississippi, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers. Many of the 36 projects would be developed at non-power dams operated by the Corps of Engineers.

B.C. begins outreach for 900-MW Site C

BC Hydro has begun a pre-consultation process to collect input from affected communities and stakeholders on the 900-MW Site C hydroelectric project proposed for British Columbia’s Peace River. BC Hydro announced it completed an initial project evaluation, part of a five-stage process. It also released a Stage 1 report on project feasibility that includes an estimated capital cost for the project of C$5 billion to C$6.6 billion (US$4.98 billion to US$6.57 billion). That figure is considerably higher than a reported 2005 estimate for the project of C$3.2 billion (US$3.19 billion).

Missouri, utility settle Taum Sauk breach suit

Missouri utility AmerenUE signed a settlement agreement with the state of Missouri in which AmerenUE will pay $177.35 million in compensation and remediation for the 2005 breach of the upper reservoir of the 408-MW Taum Sauk pumped-storage project. Taum Sauk’s dam breached Dec. 14, 2005, releasing 1.4 billion gallons of water down the Black River, injuring nine people, and damaging property, including Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. A Missouri Public Service Commission investigation cited a failure of utility management. A civil suit brought in Reynolds County Circuit Court by the state attorney general sought costs, expenses, penalties, and damages from AmerenUE. In addition to cash payment to various state funds, the settlement includes extensive remediation and restoration already performed by AmerenUE and additional prospective remediation and restoration.

FERC issues first license using integrated process

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued its first hydroelectric license using the integrated licensing process to PPL Montana for its 11-MW Mystic Lake project in Montana. The process, created to provide a more streamlined and efficient means of obtaining a license, coordinates FERC’s work with that of other federal agencies, Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations, and the public. FERC issued the relicense order within one year of the application being filed. The new process allows a license applicant’s pre-filing consultation and FERC’s environmental scoping to be conducted concurrently, rather than sequentially.

Firm pursues 59 hydrokinetic projects

Free Flow Power Corp. of Manchester, Mass., is pursuing development of 59 in-stream kinetic hydropower projects in seven states totaling 3,182 MW, all on the Mississippi River. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued preliminary permits to Free Flow Power Corp. limited liability companies in January to study the first four of the projects, which total 153 MW. The permitted projects, all in Louisiana, are: 56-MW Brilliant Point, 22-MW Point Pleasant, 24-MW Thirty-five Mile Point, and 51-MW White Alder. In addition to Louisiana, Free Flow companies have filed permit applications for projects in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. Free Flow President Dan Irvin said nameplate capacity of all the proposed projects totals nearly 3,200 MW, but total available capacity, based on flow, would be about 1,600 MW.

Hydro Currents is compiled by the staff of HydroNews.net, a product of HCI Publications, the world’s leading provider of hydro information. To subscribe, call (1) 816-931-1311, or visit the Internet: www.hcipub.com.

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