Canada, Environmental, North America

Hydro Currents

Issue 5 and Volume 27.

U.S. offers $10 billion loan guarantees

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is offering $10 billion in federal loan guarantees for projects involving renewable energy, including some hydropower, plus energy efficiency and advanced transmission and distribution technologies. Applications are due Dec. 31. DOE said it would consider new or improved technologies that could include some forms of hydropower. The department indicated conventional hydro technology, if already commercially deployed in the U.S., is ineligible. The department said it is offering the loan guarantees in support of debt financing for eligible projects. There are three classes of projects: manufacturing; stand-alone; and large-scale that use more than one renewable energy technology. The solicitation describes hydropower as including hydropower technology devices in existing impoundments, and ocean wave, tidal, and in-stream energy projects. The solicitation, No. DE-PS01-08LG00001, can be obtained from the Internet site

Waterpower community sees opportunities

Global opportunities abound for hydropower to meet demand for carbon-free renewable power, to fulfill water supply needs, and to provide security against droughts and flooding, the feared results of global warming. That was the message July 16 to more than 2,500 delegates to HydroVision 2008, a biannual conference of hydropower developers, suppliers, builders, owners, and regulators. Delegates came from more than 65 countries to the weeklong conference and exhibition in Sacramento, Calif. Climate change has created a new scenario for hydro, whose many benefits – carbon-free renewable power, water supply, irrigation, flood protection, and navigation – are being more readily recognized by the public. Leslie Eden, president of conference organizer HCI Publications, said, these days, the “hydropower industry” can more appropriately be described as the “waterpower community.” The conference dedicated a weeklong meeting track to ocean, tidal, and in-stream technologies, reflecting an emphasis on new technologies being designed to extract clean energies from moving water. It devoted another track to water resources and related community and stakeholder concerns.

BC Hydro seeks 5,000 GWh of clean power

BC Hydro issued a request for proposals calling for independent power projects to provide up to 5,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) annually of clean or renewable energy, including hydropower. Proposals are due Nov. 25. The utility’s Clean Power Call establishes a competitive process for acquiring 5,000 GWh annually of seasonal and hourly firm energy. The solicitation responds to the BC Energy Plan: A Vision for Clean Energy Leadership, released by British Columbia in February 2007. The plan calls for the province to obtain at least 90 percent of its electricity from clean or renewable sources and to achieve self-sufficiency by 2016. The Clean Power Call targets clean energy from large projects using proven technologies such as hydropower, wind, solar, and geothermal energy, among others. For information, see BC Hydro’s Internet site for the solicitation,

Panels fund hydro R&D; Congress stalls

The Senate Appropriations Committee included $30 million for the Department of Energy’s hydropower research and development program in an energy and water spending bill it endorsed July 10. In June, the House Appropriations Committee endorsed $40 million for the program, for the 2009 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2008. However, reports quoted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., saying he expected the Senate only would finish work on defense and military construction spending bills before adjourning. If Congress merely passes a continuing resolution to fund the government at existing levels until a new president takes office, that would leave the hydro R&D program with only $10 million, the same amount Congress appropriated for the current fiscal year.

California water storage compromise offered

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein unveiled a plan July 10 for a $9.3 billion bond aimed at bridging the partisan divide between California lawmakers over water projects. The package attempts to reach a compromise between Schwarzenegger and minority Republicans, who propose building water storage dams, and the Democrat-controlled Legislature, which proposed water supply and flood control measures short of dam-building. After two years of below-normal rainfall, Schwarzenegger declared California to be in a drought. In 2007, the Legislature failed to approve his $9.6 billion water infrastructure plan that would have included $5.1 billion to develop storage at Los Vaqueros Dam in Contra Costa County, Sites Dam in Colusa County, and Temperance Flat Dam in Fresno County. In their compromise plan, Schwarzenegger and Feinstein did not provide details on projects. Instead, they outlined broad areas for spending on regional water supply, conservation, storage system improvements, watershed protection, and water recycling.

Andritz closes deal for GE Hydro assets

Andritz Group of Austria, owner of hydro equipment manufacturer VA Tech Hydro, announced closing June 30 of its acquisitions of GE Hydro assets and technology and GE Energy’s majority interest in GE Hydro Inepar do Brasil. Andritz agreed to acquire GE Energy’s Hydro assets and technology in May and a majority interest in GE Hydro Inepar in June. The acquisitions are expected to add about US$300 million to Andritz Group annual sales. The acquisition of GE Energy’s hydro technology and certain other assets includes engineering and project management resources, research and development capabilities, and specialized generator component production facilities in Canada. Those activities have a total staff of about 200. GE Hydro Inepar was formed in 1997 with the other principal shareholder, Brazilian conglomerate Inepar S.A. With completion of the acquisitions, GE Hydro Inepar is being renamed Andritz Hydro Inepar do Brasil. It has sales, engineering, and project management resources in Campinas, Brazil; Tampere, Finland; and Kristinehamm, Sweden, with a total staff of about 200.

Canada reviews 2,824-MW Lower Churchill

Canadian federal and provincial regulators issued final guidelines July 15 for preparation of an environmental impact statement for the 2,824-MW Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in Labrador. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and Conservation said their guidelines would provide direction to the project sponsor and would identify required information on the anticipated effects of the project on the environment. The agencies are finalizing a joint review panel process for the project, which is to include the 2,000-MW Gull Island and 824-MW Muskrat Falls projects on the Churchill River.

PPL Montana must pay riverbed rent

A Montana judge ordered PPL Montana pay $41 million in back rent to the state of Montana for use of riverbeds occupied by the utility’s hydroelectric facilities, including $6.2 million for 2007. District Judge Thomas Honzel issued the ruling June 13, saying PPL Montana owes $34.8 million for 2000-2006, and $6.2 million for 2007. Amounts to be paid going forward are to be determined by the Board of Land Commissioners. PPL Montana’s hydropower holdings include the 327-MW Missouri-Madison, 10-MW Mystic Lake, and 93-MW Thompson Falls projects. Two other utilities once involved in the case, Avista Corp. and PacifiCorp, settled last year rather than go to trial on the state lawsuit.

Environmental groups challenge new ‘biop’

A coalition led by dam removal advocates filed suit in U.S. District Court, again challenging NOAA Fisheries’ biological opinion for operating the Columbia River Basin hydropower system. The coalition complaint, filed June 17 in Portland, Ore., seeks review of the 2008 “biop” for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act. In the opinion, released in May, NOAA Fisheries declared that breaching four lower Snake River hydropower projects operated by the Corps of Engineers is not necessary to protect and recover threatened salmon stocks. The coalition criticizes the plan for failing to include significant changes to the region’s federal hydro system, and for ignoring the four dams on the lower Snake.

EPA: No permit needed for water transfers

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final rulemaking that clarifies hydropower plants do not require pollution permits under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act if they merely transfer water between two bodies of water. The rule is similar to a proposed rule released in 2006. It clarifies Section 402 of the Clean Water Act by codifying long-standing interpretations that the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program does not apply to transfers of water from one body of water to another. “EPA’s Water Transfer Rule gives communities greater certainty and makes clear they have the flexibility to protect water quality and promote the public good without going through a new federal permitting process,” EPA Assistant Administrator Benjamin Grumbles said.

FERC relicenses Lewis River projects

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued relicense orders for four hydroelectric projects on Washington’s North Fork Lewis River totaling 579 MW. FERC issued relicenses June 26, granting PacifiCorp and the Cowlitz County Public Utility District permission to operate the projects for 50 more years. PacifiCorp is the licensee for 240-MW Swift No. 1, 134-MW Yale, and 135-MW Merwin. Cowlitz County is licensee for 70-MW Swift No. 2, which PacifiCorp operates under contract. In a 2004 settlement, licensees committed to invest $309 million over 50 years to resolve all relicensing issues.

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