Hydro Currents

BPA decision favors hydropower

High seasonal river flows and hydroelectric generation in the Pacific Northwest led the Bonneville Power Administration to issue an interim decision to address what it called a “potentially imminent need” to temporarily limit output from non-hydropower resources.

The interim policy, which will remain in place until March 30, 2012, limits generation at coal, natural gas and other thermal power plants first. As a last resort, BPA’s policy could limit wind energy generation connected to its power transmission system. Under the policy, BPA said it will replace any reduced thermal and wind generation with hydropower from federal dams on the Columbia River system.

BPA said it will not reimburse wind energy producers for lost tax credits or other revenues, saying that would shift costs to Northwest ratepayers who do not receive the wind power.

BPA finalized its interim “Environmental Redispatch” policy to help cope with runoff from what it said it the largest snowpack in years. BPA said it took several steps to avoid the need for an interim policy.

The National Hydropower Association released a set of “guideposts” for consideration by federal and state policymakers, the BPA and other parties. The guidelines are meant to address several issues that that have been overlooked and to encourage a discussion of long-term solutions to help all stakeholders deal with similar situations in the future.

“The real issue here is storage of excess energy,” said Linda Church-Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association. “That is where pumped hydropower storage could play a significant role in solving these problems.”

Senate committee passes bill to boost U.S. marine, hydrokinetic energy

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2011, a bill aimed at boosting marine and hydrokinetic energy development.

The bill supports marine and hydrokinetic resources by increasing research and development funding for new ocean, tidal and in-stream hydrokinetic projects.

The National Hydropower Association commended lawmakers for passing the bill and urged swift consideration by the full Senate.

“Marine and hydrokinetic technologies present tremendous potential for a renewable energy future,” said NHA Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci. “Studies have demonstrated that nearly 16,000 MW of inland and ocean hydrokinetic technologies could be developed by 2025 with the right policies. The bill is a great first step towards that reality.”

Tunnel breakthrough announced at Niagara Project

The world’s largest hard rock boring machine successfully broke through at the Niagara Tunnel Project.

The tunnel will divert water from the Niagara River and carry it to the Niagara Falls hydroelectric generating stations.

A tunnel boring machine dubbed ‘Big Becky’ was used to dig a10-kilometer tunnel under the city of Niagara Falls. The tunnel project will allow Ontario Power Generation to increase output at the nearly 2,000-MW Sir Adam Beck hydroelectric complex by about 1.6 billion kilowatt-hours.

The ‘Big Becky’ boring machine is 150 meters long and weighs about 4,000 tons. The tunnel is as high as a four-story building.

Work on the Niagara Tunnel Project is expected to be completed in 2013. Previous reports estimated the project’s cost at C$1.6 billion (US$1.42 billion).

House Committee proposes $50 million for Water Power Program

Linda Church Ciocci

The National Hydropower Association commended the House Appropriations Committee’s recommendation of US$50 million for the Department of Energy’s Water Power Program.

Linda Church Ciocci, NHA executive director, said the funds are a vital investment in continued progress for hydropower research and development.

Church Ciocci said NHA also is pleased to see that the funding has been equally divided between conventional and marine and hydrokinetic technologies.

Church Ciocci stated: “The hydropower industry is poised for tremendous growth, both in terms of generation and the economic benefits it provides. Over 1.4 million cumulative jobs could be created in the industry as it seeks to add over 60,000 MW of new capacity in the future. Continued funding of the Water Power Program helps to lower costs, improve operations and remove market-entry barriers to help make these goals a reality.”

U.S. to seek private funds to boost Utah hydropower

Federal administrators plan to partner with private developers in efforts to speed up construction of hydropower plants in Utah.

The Bureau of Reclamation recently completed a study that shows Utah has three of the top 15 potential hydropower sites in the West all along the Diamond Fork pipeline in central Utah’s Spanish Fork Canyon.

The first request for proposals aims to develop hydropower at Central Utah Project’s Spanish Fork Flow Control structure, a valve on the 8-foot diameter pipeline about eight miles southeast of Spanish Fork.

Officials said construction could begin within a year and create up to 50 jobs. The plant would produce enough electricity to power 2,000 homes.

The Reclamation study shows the agency could generate up to 1 million megawatt-hours of electricity annually and create jobs by adding hydropower to 70 of its existing facilities.

U.S. Supreme Court to hear PPL Montana riverbed rent case

The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear PPL Montana’s appeal of a Montana Supreme Court decision that granted the state ownership of riverbeds underlying certain PPL Montana-owned dams, retroactively going back to statehood.

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to take up this case because of the broad implications it has for water users throughout the West,” said Robert J. Grey, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of PPL Corp.

The case involves PPL Montana’s appeal of a state court decision that the company must pay accrued rent and interest and an undetermined amount of rent going forward to Montana for the use of riverbeds beneath its dams and hydroelectric plants, some of which have been generating electricity for more than a century.

PPL Montana has recorded a charge of $56 million that includes the original judgment of the Montana courts plus the company’s estimate of interest and rent that has accrued since the state court’s ruling.

Grey said the case raises federal issues that affect the rights of streambed users, including hydropower plant operators, ranchers, irrigators, cities, dock owners, recreationalists and federal landholding agencies.

Bill that threatened hydro transmission project dropped

New Hampshire’s legislature dropped a proposed bill that could have delayed a joint Northeast Utilities-NSTAR transmission project to carry hydropower from Canada to New England.

In 2009, Hartford-based NU and Boston-based NSTAR-Boston proposed construction of a 200-mile-long high-voltage power line to a Quebec hydroelectric plant.

Through their Northern Pass Transmission LLC venture, NU and NSTAR filed an application in October 2010 for a permit to build the $1.1 billion Northern Pass line at the U.S. border.

About 140 miles of the project would run through New Hampshire.

Forty miles of that portion would require the acquisition of new right-of-way rights, which raised concerns among local landowners.

New Hampshire lawmakers had sought to prohibit the state from using eminent domain to acquire land that is not deemed to be part of a grid reliability project.

NU and NSTAR said the project, which is expected to take about three years to complete, will improve New England’s electric reliability and provide 1,200 MW of clean, low-cost hydropower to the region.

PacifiCorp plans removal of Condit Dam

After nearly a century of serving PacifiCorp customers, Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in south central Washington will be removed starting this fall, fulfilling a multi-party settlement agreement signed in 1999.

Decommissioning the hydroelectric project is moving forward after receipt of an essential sediment management permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The project is about 3.3 miles upstream from the confluence of the White Salmon and Columbia Rivers.

Project facilities consist of a 125-foot high, 471-foot long concrete gravity diversion dam and an intake structure that directs water into a 13.5-foot diameter by 5,100-foot long wood stave flow line.The powerhouse contains two double horizontal Francis turbines with an installed capacity of 14.7 MW.

The project creates a reservoir, Northwestern Lake, which extends 1.8 miles upstream of the dam and covers about 92 acres.Dam removal was determined to be less costly to PacifiCorp customers than the fish passage that would be required for operation as part of the federal dam relicensing process.

The cost of decommissioning Condit is currently estimated at about $32 million, including funds already spent during the planning process.

Regulator endorses removal of Klamath River dams

The California Public Utilities Commission endorsed the removal of four dams and hydro plants on the Klamath River.

At a meeting in San Francisco, the commission also granted Portland-based dam owner PacifiCorp a 2-percent rate increase for its 45,000 customers in California to help pay for removing the dams in southern Oregon and northern California.

The $13.8 million raised by the surcharge during the next nine years goes into trust funds to be used if federal authorities approve the removal of the dams.

The Bureau of Reclamation last year awarded a $4.2 million contract to CDM Federal Programs Corp. for an economic study of an agreement to remove four dams in the 161.338-MW Klamath hydroelectric project.

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