Breaking News: Hydro Currents

SNC-Lavalin wins contract for Waneta Expansion

SNC-Lavalin signed a C$587 million (US$575.6 million) contract to design and build the Waneta Expansion, a 335-MW hydropower facility on the Pend d’Oreille River just south of Trail, British Columbia.

The project, undertaken by a limited partnership of Fortis Inc, Columbia Power Corp., and Columbia Basin Trust, will provide clean power to British Columbia while stimulating the local economy throughout the execution of the project, SNC-Lavalin said.

The partnership concluded definitive agreements to construct the project at an estimated cost of C$900 million.

The project mandate will require extensive environmental management plans, including special measures for the protection of sturgeon.

Engineering and construction work is already under way. The new facility is expected to be up and running in spring 2015.

Aecon Group Inc. won a contract to work jointly with SNC-Lavalin on the project. A joint venture of Aecon, Canada’s largest publicly-listed construction company, and the construction unit of SNC-Lavalin were awarded the civil works design and construction portion of the Waneta Expansion. (See the cover story on pg. 8 for more details).

PG&E no longer pursuing Humboldt project

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) is no longer pursuing development of the Humboldt WaveConnect pilot project off the coast of Humboldt County in northern California.

In the end, costs rose above the level of expenditure that the company could justify, said Brandi Ehlers, spokesperson for PG&E.

Ehlers said challenges encountered in developing this project include a lack of experience with wave energy technology, which created uncertainty regarding environmental effects; the need for costly adaptive management monitoring programs; and the lack of ability to expand the proposed site from the pilot phase.

Funding for the Humboldt WaveConnect project included $1.2 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and $4.8 million in approved spending from the California Public Utilities Commission. This money was to be used to take two projects through the regulatory process.

However, PG&E estimated it would need to spend $50 million just to cover the expenses of installing the infrastructure for power transmission, monitoring, and other equipment, according to its FERC application. Operation and maintenance cost of the project was estimated at $5 million annually. This cost excludes the expense of carrying out environmental protection measures, the FERC application said.

The project was intended to operate for five years with a capacity of 5 MW. It was to be located about 3 miles off the coast, in state waters. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted a preliminary permit for Humboldt WaveConnect in March 2008. PG&E anticipated receiving the project license by June 2011.

Toba-Montrose project completed

Plutonic Power Corp. and GE Energy Financial Services announced the substantial completion of the Toba-Montrose hydroelectric project near British Columbia’s Powell River.

The Toba Montrose General Partnership (TMGP) assumed full operational control of the generation and transmission facilities.

TMGP’s operations team is fully trained and will be residing in the Toba Valley to ensure safe, reliable, and efficient operations, the partnership said.

Toba-Montrose will generate average net energy of 710,000 MWh to 730,000 MWh each year.

The C$633 million, 196-MW Toba-Montrose run-of-river project is the largest source of privately generated renewable power in British Columbia. It includes a 73-MW run-of-river facility on Montrose Creek and a 123-MW run-of-river facility on the East Toba River.

A 93-mile transmission line that connects both facilities to BC Hydro’s grid was part of the project. The TMGP assets have been constructed on the traditional lands of First Nations partners the Klahoose, Sliammon and Sechelt First Nations.

Obama administration to review PPL riverbed case

The U.S. Supreme Court asked the Obama administration for an opinion on whether the Montana Supreme Court ruled correctly when it determined that PPL Montana must pay rent for the company’s use of riverbeds beneath its hydroelectric dams.

The nation’s high court wants acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, the Obama administration’s top attorney before the Supreme Court, to weigh in on the case.

The move signals that the high court has taken an interest in the case and may eventually decide to hear it.

PPL Montana wants the Supreme Court to overrule a Montana Supreme Court decision from last March that ordered the company to pay $40 million in current rent, as well as damages for not paying rent from 2000 through 2007.

The court decision means the land under the dams is like other public land that is rented out, such as land for grazing cattle.

PPL Montana said the state overstepped its authority and in August asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider in the case. PPL said the Montana Supreme Court was wrong in claiming Montana ownership of more than 500 miles of riverbeds under multiple hydropower facilities.

Parties discuss FERC Integrated Licensing Process

Several government agencies and stakeholders interested in the hydroelectric licensing process convened Nov. 3 to discuss the effectiveness of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Integrated Licensing Process (ILP) for hydroelectric projects.

Anna West of consultant Kearns & West led the national technical conference called by FERC to discuss experiences with the ILP, which was created to provide a more streamlined and efficient means of obtaining a license.

Many of the participants complained it is difficult to comply with tight deadlines within the ILP schedule. However, none was ready to abandon the process. It was acknowledged that the process originally was designed to prevent long delays in obtaining hydro licenses.

Several participants suggested modifications to, or flexibility within, ILP timeframes. David Dean of the Connecticut River Watershed Council said he does not necessarily advocate lengthening the ILP process, but added there might be a consensus for the flexibility to move process deadlines if it would save time overall and avoid decisions under time pressure that might result in litigation.

Others, such as Julie Tupper of the U.S. Forest Service, said they had learned to anticipate the time crunch by starting to review projects ahead of schedule.

Tupper said the ILP structure has become a stumbling block that adds to contentiousness.

FERC receives 401 certification for removal of dam

Project operator PacifiCorp has submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) a long-awaited Washington state water quality certification, a prerequisite to FERC approval of PacifiCorp’s plan to remove 14.7-MW Condit Dam as part of a 1999 settlement agreement.

PacifiCorp received the Clean Water Act Section 401 certification from the Washington Department of Ecology Oct. 12, more than a decade after the utility’s original request for 401 certification in 2001. PacifiCorp referred the certificate Oct. 25 to FERC, which must issue a hydro license amendment before PacifiCorp may cease operation and begin removing project facilities.

Resource agencies and groups, including American Rivers, pushed for decommissioning and removal of Condit Dam (No. 2342) because it has cut off salmon and steelhead from White Salmon River, a Columbia River tributary, for nearly a century.

In the settlement with resource agencies and stakeholder groups, PacifiCorp agreed to remove Condit Dam and to decommission the project rather than spend an estimated $30 million to install fish ladders. In 2006, NOAA Fisheries issued a biological opinion finding no jeopardy to 13 endangered species from a plan to remove Condit Dam under terms of the settlement.

The state said 401 certification ensures that water quality standards are protected during removal of the 125-foot-tall concrete dam, built in 1913, as well as during restoration work.

“Elevated levels of naturally occurring mercury were found in some of the sediments,” the state said. “Studies indicate, however, that the release of the material during dam removal would actually reduce risks from the mercury by making it less likely to accumulate in fish.”

House Republicans control the energy debate

With midterm elections complete and a GOP House in place, the newcomers have the opportunity to either push forward or detain renewable energy policy.

The new Congress has several ideas to work with that were held over from Obama’s first two years in office, including a renewable electricity standard that expands the definition of what energy types count toward the thresholds, particularly adding emission-free nuclear power and clean coal to the definition of renewable energy.

Tax incentives are sure to be a major driver to renewable energy development during this half-term.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) is in line to become the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a role that has significant influence over tax measures for renewables.

Camp is the current top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee.

FERC clears PPL acquisition of Kentucky utilities

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given final approval to acquisition of Louisville Gas & Electric Co. and Kentucky Utilities Co. by Pennsylvania-based PPL Corp. from the U.S. subsidiary of Germany-based E.ON AG.

Among other assets, the deal adds Kentucky Utilities’ 24-MW Dix Dam on the Dix River and LG&E’s 100.6-MW Ohio Falls project on the Ohio River to PPL’s hydropower portfolio.

PPL completed the acquisition Nov. 1, on the heels of FERC approval Oct. 26. PPL and E.ON announced in April that E.ON agreed to sell PPL the two Kentucky utilities for $7.625 billion.

PPL intends to operate the acquisition as a wholly owned subsidiary of PPL Corp., retaining the headquarters in Louisville.

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