Breaking News: Hydro Currents

Issue 4 and Volume 29.

FERC to provide Web tools to aid developers of small hydropower projectrs

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will make available a series of Web-based tools that will assist developers and help make the small hydropower project licensing process more user-friendly.

FERC said the new tools are being introduced as increased interest is being shown in small hydropower development across the U.S. The resources, which will become available in August 2010 at www.ferc.gov, will guide applicants through the process of selecting a hydro project site, determining if a project is jurisdictional, selecting a FERC licensing process, consulting with stakeholders, and preparing a license or exemption application.

“Small and micro hydropower has enormous potential, but these projects often cannot be developed under traditional licensing methods,” Commissioner Philip Moeller said. “By our action, the commission is working to ease the regulatory burden of harnessing this clean and renewable form of energy.”

The new resources came out of discussions at FERC’s December 2009 technical conference on small, non-federal hydropower projects. At the December 2009 technical conference, participants noted the increasing interest in small hydropower in recent years.

In 2009, FERC staff received almost twice as many inquiries on small hydro issues than in 2008. And the commission has received more preliminary permit, license, and exemption applications for these types of projects.

British Columbia to proceed with Site C review

The government of British Columbia announced it is moving forward with the 900-MW Site C hydropower project on the Peace River.

The Site C Clean Energy Project will advance to the regulatory review phase, which will include an independent environmental assessment. The regulatory review phase is expected to take about two years, and it is anticipated that Site C will be available for domestic electricity need by 2020.

BC Hydro has considered, and shelved Site C several times.

“Hydroelectric power helped develop our province, and Site C will build on B.C.’s heritage of clean, renewable and affordable, power,” said Premier Gordon Campbell. “Site C will be a publicly owned heritage asset and will ensure that British Columbia has reliable sources of clean electricity, while contributing to our goal of electricity self-sufficiency.”

The project is expected to cost at least $6 billion and produce enough energy to power more than 400,000 homes. The project would involve construction of a power station near Fort St. John, British Columbia.

408-MW Taum Sauk authorized to resume operation

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authorized AmerenUE to resume normal project operations at the 408-MW Taum Sauk pumped-storage project, whose upper reservoir collapsed in 2005 in eastern Missouri.

FERC Regional Engineer Peggy Harding wrote AmerenUE April 1, reviewing the utility’s request to resume generation at the rebuilt project.

“Through participation in all phases of the design and construction of this project and as a result of our review of all documentation provided in support of your request, you may begin normal project operations,” Harding wrote.

AmerenUE provided FERC a final design and construction report dated March 24, 2010, that included certifications from the utility, its design engineer, and quality control manager that the project was constructed as designed and in accordance with approved plans and specifications. It also submitted a dam performance and instrumentation report that detailed the satisfactory performance of the rebuilt upper reservoir during a test refill program in March.

AmerenUE reported it completed a successful test March 20, 2010, of the upper reservoir level control and protection system, which is designed to provide adequate and redundant safeguards to ensure safe operation through the reservoir’s full range of operations. Paul C. Rizzo Associates Inc., AmerenUE’s design engineer and quality control manager, provided FERC a commissioning notice to operate the project March 26, 2010.

U.S. Senate Energy Committee endorses FERC nominees Moeller and LaFleur

The U.S. Senate Energy Committee endorsed May 6, 2010, the nominations of Philip D. Moeller and Cheryl A. LaFleur to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

In a unanimous voice vote, the panel recommended the full Senate confirm the renomination of Commissioner Moeller, a Republican, and the nomination of utility executive LaFleur, a Democrat. President Obama made the nominations to the five-member panel in March 2010.

LaFleur, of Massachusetts, was named to succeed Commissioner Suedeen Kelly, a New Mexico Democrat. Moeller, of Washington, was named to the commission by President George W. Bush in 2006, serving a term slated to expire in June 2010.

The pair testified April 27, 2010, before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“I hail from the Pacific Northwest, the region that most relies on hydropower to deliver needed energy to consumers,” Moeller testified. “With that background, I have worked to assure that my colleagues have a thorough appreciation of hydropower and the benefits that this resource delivers.”

Prior to joining the commission, Moeller worked in Washington, D.C., for Alliant Energy Corp. and Calpine Corp. From 1997-2000, he was energy policy adviser to Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash.

LaFleur said she has had a part in her region’s early lead in robust competitive markets, demand-side programs, and efforts to boost renewable energy.

At the same time, she said, New England lacks many indigenous energy resources and suffers from historically high energy prices.

“If confirmed as a FERC commissioner, I would work to understand and be sensitive to the unique situations and needs of different geographic regions and markets across the country and to approach all issues with an open mind,” she said.

U.S awards contract for dam removal study

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation awarded a $4.2 million contract to CDM Federal Programs Corp. for an economic study of an agreement to remove four dams in the 161.3-MW Klamath hydroelectric project in Oregon and California.

Project licensee PacifiCorp and other parties unveiled a settlement agreement in September 2009 on resolution of Klamath River resource issues and removal of the utility’s main Klamath River hydropower plants and dams, 90.3-MW J.C. Boyle, 20-MW Copco 1, 27-MW Copco 2, and 18-MW Iron Gate.

Parties signed two framework agreements in February for removing the dams by 2020 if Congress and scientists with the Department of Interior approve.

Reclamation awarded a contract to Research Triangle Institute to evaluate the economic potential of fisheries restoration. The settlement calls for PacifiCorp customers to pay $200 million of the dam removal costs. The state of California is to provide up to $250 million, with total project costs not to exceed $450 million.

The environmental review is to include development of a federal environmental impact statement, a state environmental impact report, a biological assessment, and a secretarial determination overview report.

Oregon group releases report to integrate wave energy

Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET) released a report that includes strategies and technical tools for electric utilities to guide the integration of wave energy into the Northwest power grid.

The Utility Market Initiative (UMI) report was conducted on behalf of OWET by Pacific Energy Ventures, a renewable energy consulting and business development firm. OWET is a nonprofit public-private partnership funded by the Oregon Innovation Council.

Its mission is to support the responsible development of wave energy in Oregon.

The UMI report provides tools and strategies to address the technical and business issues facing utility companies and the wave energy industry.

The initiative addressed specific issues including: utility engagement, resource potential, business protocols, and grid integration tools.

The report also includes detailed analysis of Oregon’s wave resources, an overview of technology conversion options, and other information.

The UMI report is available on the Oregon Wave Energy Trust Web site at www.oregonwave.org.

FERC suspends guidelines for expanded civil penalties power

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) suspended its new civil penalty guidelines pending further public comment.

FERC issued the new guidelines March 18, 2010, outlining how it will wield new civil penalty authority granted to the agency by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

The policy statement guidelines are modeled on parts of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, with modifications specific to FERC issues.

Less than a month later, on April 15, 2010, the commission issued an order suspending the new guidelines and declaring its March 18 action “as interim in this proceeding.”

FERC had conducted three workshops on the guidelines before it suspended them.

“The commission has determined that the public interest would be served by affording interested entities a broader opportunity to comment on the penalty guidelines before issuing a final order and putting them into effect,” FERC said.

It invited comments until June 14, 2010.

FERC said March 18, 2010, it adopted the guidelines after nearly four years’ experience with its expanded authority under the 2005 energy act.

The act expanded FERC power under the Federal Power Act and extended FERC authority to cover violations of the Natural Gas Act.

“This approach promotes consistency by basing the penalty calculations on a set of uniform factors that are weighted similarly for similar types of violators,” the commission said. “The penalty guidelines also provide specific credit to companies for self-reporting violations and for implementing robust compliance programs, thus further encouraging compliance by the industry.”

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