Hydro Currents

FERC urged to reverse wind power curtailment by BPA

Pacific Northwest wind generators filed a complaint that too much of a good thing — hydropower — has prompted Bonneville Power Administration illegally to force curtailment of wind generation in favor of providing free excess hydropower to the region.

The wind generators are urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to stop BPA from using its transmission monopoly power to curtail competing generators in an “unduly discriminatory manner.”

“Bonneville has adopted a new practice whereby it unilaterally curtails wind generators without compensation, and ‘substitutes’ its own generation for delivery to the wind generators’ customers, in violation of the wind generators’ interconnection contracts with Bonneville and the firm transmission rights associated with the delivery of the output of the wind generators’ facilities,” the complaint states.

BPA began limiting the output of non-hydroelectric energy, including thermal generation and wind energy, in May due to high river flows creating a temporary oversupply of hydropower. The agency said the action was required to protect salmon and steelhead, maintain the reliability of the power grid, and avoid shifting costs to BPA customers.

The wind generators asked FERC to order BPA immediately to revise its curtailment practices to comply with non-discrimination standards of the Federal Power Act and to abide by terms of interconnection agreements with the wind generators.

Legislation provides tax credit parity

Bipartisan legislation to fully recognize the energy, environmental and economic benefits of hydropower has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The legislation, called the Renewable Energy Parity Act, would provide production tax credit parity for hydropower generation, leveling the playing field for all renewables.

Currently hydropower and marine and hydrokinetic technologies receive only one-half the amount of the credit available to other renewable resources. The bill would equalize the production tax credit at the higher rate for all qualifying technologies.

Recent studies show that hydropower’s contribution to the energy mix could be increased by more than 60,000 MW, with the right policies in place, all while adding nearly 1.4 million cumulative new jobs by 2025.

The National Hydropower Association, which represents the majority of non-federal hydropower generation in the U.S., said it strongly supports the bill.

“The current disparity shifts private sector investment away from hydro, despite the clean, renewable energy and economic benefits additional project development can provide,” said NHA Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci. “This bill closes the gap between technologies and will help bring affordable and reliable hydropower to more Americans.”

Dannel Malloy
Dannel Malloy

Connecticut governor: Time running out for Canada to sell hydro to U.S.

New England governors called for a swift resolution to transmission and financial issues associated with the potential development of Labrador’s Lower Churchill hydroelectric project.

One governor warned that Canada is “running out of time” to sell power south of the border.

The governors met July 11 with Atlantic Canadian premiers in Halifax, where they discussed the proposed $6.2-billion development at Muskrat Falls in central Labrador.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said pressure is building in the U.S. to satisfy renewable energy needs locally rather than wait for Canadian sources of hydroelectricity.

“We have built a substantial desire amongst investors in our state to develop alternative energy – non-Canadian – because of the lack of direct discussion and belief that the product is going to be delivered in a timely fashion,” said Malloy.

He said the lack of direct discussion about hydroelectricity with Canadian officials in general is “troubling.”

Malloy said he believed importing Canadian hydroelectricity makes sense, but it has to be timely.

Susitna hydropower project moving forward in Alaska

Alaska is moving ahead with the $4.5 billion Susitna-Watana hydroelectric project.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said major hurdles for the project must be overcome first, including permitting and financing of the 700-foot-high dam.

Two weeks after signing legislation necessary to move the Susitna-Watana hydroelectric project forward, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said the state is recruiting its Susitna-Watana hydro project team and expects the new hydropower system on the Susitna River to be generating power by 2023. Licensing the project is expected to take six years. Construction will take five years.

The dam would create a 39 mile-long reservoir with a maximum width of two miles. Energy would be generated using the glacial waters of the upper Susitna River, and transmitted north to the interior and south to south central Alaska along new and existing transmission lines. The project will have an installed capacity of 600 MW and will supply half of the Railbelt’s current energy needs.

“The Susitna-Watana Hydro Project is part of a comprehensive energy package that will help Alaskans in a number of different ways,” Parnell said. “It will grow jobs now and into the future, and it will help Alaska reach its goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2025.”

HydroVision International sets new attendance record

For the second consecutive year, the number of people attending HydroVision International reached an all-time high as hydropower professionals throughout the world gathered in Sacramento, Calif., to promote the use of sustainable hydropower.

HydroVision International 2011, held July 18-22 at the Sacramento Convention Center, drew 3,451 attendees, up from 3,000 in 2010. It was the largest attendance in the history of HydroVision.

Hydropower professionals representing 44 countries attended HydroVision International 2011, which featured more than 450 speakers and 311 exhibitors, up from 278 exhibitors in 2010.

“This is really impressive,” said Roger Ballentine, president of Green Strategies Inc. and a Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. “There are a lot of people in Washington I wish could see this exhibit floor. This is a vibrant industry.”

HydroVision International 2012 will be held July 17-20 in Louisville, Ky. Already, 75 percent of the exhibition space booked for HydroVision 2011 has been rebooked for 2012.

Xcel acquitted in hydropower plant deaths trial

Xcel Energy and subsidiary Public Service Co. of Colorado were acquitted of charges in a criminal trial over the deaths of five workers in a fire at Cabin Creek hydropower project in 2007.

A U.S. District Court jury returned the not guilty verdicts on the second day of deliberations after a 16-day trial in Denver, Colo. Xcel and the subsidiary each were charged with five counts of violating federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration regulations and causing deaths.

The workers, who were employed by subcontractor RPI Coating Inc., were in a tunnel at the hydroelectric plant, which is west of Denver, when a fire occurred and their escape was blocked.

RPI Coating and two executives are due to stand trial later this year.

Federal officials investigating the fire concluded in 2010 that the accident was caused by several safety failures, according to a report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

Hydro Review inducts three hydropower plants into Hydro Hall of Fame

The Horseshoe, Shawinigan-2 and Borel hydropower plants are the 2011 inductees into Hydro Review’s Hydro Hall of Fame.

Marla Barnes, chief editor and publisher of Hydro Review, presented these awards to representatives of the three facilities at the closing luncheon of HydroVision International 2011, held July 19-22 in Sacramento, Calif.

The 14-MW Horseshoe plant on the Bow River in Alberta, Canada, is owned by TransAlta Corp. Horseshoe was the company’s first power plant. Today, all four units at the run-of-river Horseshoe facility are capable of generating at full capacity.

Hydro-Quebec’s 200-MW Shawinigan-2 plant also began operating in 1911. On the Saint-Maurice River in Quebec, Canada, the powerhouse provided power that attracted several important industries to the region, including pulp and paper and aluminum. Shawinigan-2 is the oldest powerhouse in Quebec still in operation.

The 12-MW Borel facility, the oldest of this year’s inductees, began operating in 1904. Owned by Southern California Edison, the plant on the Kern River in California featured a 45,000-kV transmission line that ran 83 miles to Los Angeles. Borel underwent significant work in the mid-1950s when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built Isabella Dam and flooded Kern Valley.

Northern Pass transmission project delayed

Construction plans have been delayed for the Northern Pass power transmission project that would bring hydroelectric power from Canada to New England, wire services reported.

In 2009, Hartford-based Northeast Utilities and Boston-based NSTAR proposed construction of a 200-mile-long high-voltage power line. 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.

Much of the transmission project would run through New Hampshire. The project has faced opposition from some residents of the areas in which the project is to be built.

Project organizers working on a proposal for a new route said construction is expected in the timeframe of 2014 and 2016. Construction initially was planned for 2013 to 2015.

An announcement detailing the new route is expected later.

The Department of Energy, which would need to approve the project, is keeping its public comment period open. It would stay open for 45 days after the announcement. NU and NSTAR have said the Northern Pass project will improve New England’s electric reliability and provide 1,200 MW of clean low-emissions hydroelectric power to the region.

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