Hydro Currents

Congress approves water project bill

Congress sent the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 to the president Sept. 24, authorizing $23 billion in projects, including a $444 million flood damage reduction project at 198.72-MW Folsom Dam in California. The Folsom work includes an auxiliary spillway to protect the Sacramento region. Although President Bush indicated he would veto the bill for authorizing too costly a list of projects, the substantial votes in favor of the bill indicated a veto override was possible. Another provision would authorize the appropriation of $500,000 for the secretary of the Army to study the feasibility of providing water resource improvements and small-scale hydro generation in Vermont. Another provision would authorize the appropriation of $12 million to the secretary of the Army to help enhance dam safety at 15 locations in seven states.

California governor adds third dam to plan

Calling a special session of the California Legislature to consider his giant water infrastructure improvement plan, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger added a third water storage project to the now $9.6 billion proposal. Schwarzenegger proposes building a Los Vaqueros Expansion project in eastern Contra Costa County, between Brentwood and Livermore. The proposal would expand the existing 100,000-acre-foot Los Vaqueros Reservoir to store up to 275,000 acre-feet. The Los Vaqueros Expansion was added to the governor’s earlier proposal that included two projects, Sites Dam and Reservoir in Colusa County northwest of Sacramento, and Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir, in Fresno County. The regular session of the Legislature adjourned without considering Schwarzenegger’s original $5.9 billion proposal.

B.C. to ‘seriously consider’ 900-MW Site C

Premier Gordon Campbell says the government of British Columbia is ready to seriously consider a plan to develop 900-MW Peace River Site C. Campbell said the process would include extensive consultations with First Nations, the neighboring province of Alberta, and the public. “The fact remains we still need some new large-scale power production, and our options for clean, large-scale power are very limited,” Campbell said Sept. 28. “We are going to begin the process to seriously consider Site C.” BC Hydro has considered, and shelved, Site C several times over 25 years, at least partially due to environmentalist opposition.

GE Hydro restructuring aimed at growth

General Electric’s GE Hydro unit is to undergo global restructuring to focus on areas of future growth, the company said Oct. 2. GE Hydro’s Schenectady, N.Y., headquarters is to move to Sao Paulo, Brazil, the site of GE Hydro Inepar, GE Hydro’s joint venture with Inepar S.A. Industria e Construcoes of Brazil. A spokesman said Brazil has the second largest hydro generation market in the world, after China. GE Hydro is to begin technology transfer in November to establish a hydraulic laboratory adjoining the Araraquara, Brazil, facilities of an Inepar affiliate, equipment manufacturer IESA. IESA President Atilano Oms Sobrinho said Araraquara also is to house most of the investment in production equipment and will result in the most complete investment in hydro generation in Latin America. Oms said the venture would be 50-50 between the partners. GE manufacturing and laboratory facilities in Sweden and Finland will be absorbed into the new GE Hydro Inepar. Activities at GE Hydro’s turbine manufacturing plant in the Montreal suburb of Lachine and engineering and drafting operations in Peterborough, Ontario, are to wind down by June 2008. Service facilities in St. Augustin and Beloeil, Québec, are to be unaffected. Operations in the United Kingdom are to be phased out and facilities in Norway are to be sold.

Heater blamed for fatal fire at Cabin Creek

A heater used for mixing paint and epoxy apparently sparked a chemical fire that killed five employees of a California contractor working inside a dewatered penstock at Public Service Co. of Colorado’s (PSC) 324-MW Cabin Creek pumped-storage project. Preliminary investigation of the Oct. 2 incident indicated workers from contractor RPI Coating of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., experienced a problem with a spray gun and hose used to apply a mixture of paint and epoxy for a penstock recoating job, the Clear Creek County sheriff’s office said. Workers added a solvent to the hopper used to mix the paint and epoxy to thin the mixture, but a heating element on the hopper kicked on, sparking a flash fire that filled the pipe with smoke, investigators said. The dead were identified as: Anthony Aguirre, 18; Donald Dejaynes, 43; Gary Foster, 48; Dupree Holt, 37; and James St. Peters, 52. All five men were from California. Six other RPI Coating employees were on the job, including four inside the penstock below the fire who escaped, and two supervisors outside the penstock. The four workers who escaped and a supervisor who rushed into the penstock were injured. PSC is a unit of Xcel Energy.

House rules out energy bill talks with Senate

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ruled out formal negotiations with the Senate to seek a compromise between the chambers’ vastly different energy bills. The House passed energy legislation in August extending a production tax credit for renewables, including some hydro, making improvements to a Clean Renewable Energy Bond incentive program for public power systems, and adopting a national renewables portfolio standard. However, the Senate adopted a markedly different version in June, refusing to add $32 billion in clean energy tax incentives and a renewables portfolio standard to its bill. Each political party blamed the other for the delays in seeking a House-Senate conference committee compromise. Democrats accused Republicans of blocking efforts to form a conference committee, the normal means to resolve differences between bills. Republicans accused Democrats of using parliamentary tactics to shut them out of discussions.

FERC member backs hydrokinetic pilots

The commissioner who led a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) workshop on hydrokinetic project licensing urged cooperation among states, federal agencies, and others if ocean power and other hydrokinetic pilot projects are to be licensed. “FERC, as it implements its process, will need the help of all interested parties, especially states and federal agencies, to act in a timely manner to promptly process pilot program licenses,” Commissioner Philip Moeller told the Oct. 2 technical workshop in Portland, Ore. Moeller convened the workshop to discuss FERC staff’s proposed process, which is intended to complete pilot project licensing in six months, provide FERC oversight and agency input, and allow developers to generate electricity while testing. “In order to reap the benefits of this renewable power source, we need to send strong and coherent signals to encourage potential developers of the new hydropower technologies,” Moeller said.

Hong Kong firm to acquire TransAlta Power

Hong Kong’s Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Ltd. is to acquire Canada’s TransAlta Power L.P. in an all-cash deal worth about C$629 million (US$645 million), excluding debt. TransAlta, which announced the deal Oct. 15, owns 50 power plants in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and Australia totaling 8,468 MW. Those holdings include 13 hydro plants in Alberta ranging from 3 MW to 355 MW and two U.S. hydro plants, 1-MW Skookumchuck in Washington and 10-MW Wailuku in Hawaii. Cheung Kong agreed to offer C$8.38 (US$8.60) in cash per unit to acquire all outstanding units of TransAlta Power. TransAlta’s board determined the offer is fair to shareholders, and recommended they accept it.

FERC staff supports 400-MW Iowa Hill

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff says building the 400-MW Iowa Hill pumped-storage development proposed by Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) would provide SMUD the flexibility to help meet peak power needs. FERC staff reached that conclusion in a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on relicensing seven existing developments that make up SMUD’s 647.726-MW Upper American River project, and proposed construction of an eighth development, Iowa Hill. The draft EIS also covers the relicensing of Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s 7-MW Chili Bar project, immediately downstream of the SMUD project. Under the proposed action with staff modifications, the Upper American River Project, including the Iowa Hill development, would generate 2,673 gigawatt-hours and have a net annual benefit of more than $110 million, or $41.19 per megawatt-hour (MWh). Chili Bar would be expected to generate 31,291 MWh and have a net annual benefit of $481,200, or $15.38/MWh.

BC Hydro outlines Clean Power Call

Utility BC Hydro declared its next request for independent power will be a “clean” call for power seeking clean energy sources including hydropower. The Clean Power Call is to acquire up to 5,000 gigawatt-hours per year through a competitive process involving independent power producers across the province. It is to target clean energy from larger projects using proven technologies such as hydropower, wind, solar, and geothermal energy, among others. A final proposal is to be filed with regulators in late 2007.

U.S. studies integrating wind, hydro

Western Area Power Administration released a draft work plan for a feasibility study of integrating wind energy generated by Indian tribes and hydropower generated by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams on the Missouri River. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires the Energy Department and Corps to study the cost and feasibility of developing a demonstration project that uses wind energy from the tribes and hydropower from the Corps to supply firming power. The study is to: review historical and projected requirements for availability and use of firming power; assess the wind energy potential on tribal land and projected cost savings through a blend of wind and hydropower over 30 years; and determine seasonal capacity needs, transmission upgrades, and costs for integration of tribal wind generation.

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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