FERC certifies improved 140.4-MW Comerford for tax credits

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has certified efficiency improvements at the 140.4-MW Comerford hydroelectric plant in New Hampshire to be eligible for renewable energy production tax credits.

TransCanada subsidiary TransCanada Hydro Northeast Inc. applied to FERC in July, seeking production tax credit certification of incremental gains in generation resulting from replacement of the Unit 1 turbine runner at Comerford, one of three developments in the 291.36-MW Fifteen Mile Falls hydroelectric project (No. 2077) on the Connecticut River in New Hampshire and Vermont. (HydroWorld 7/10/09)

In 2006, TransCanada applied to amend its hydropower project license to allow replacement of the four turbine runners at Comerford with more efficient units designed to harness power from three seasonal minimum flows that were newly required by a FERC relicense in 2002. It received approval to replace units in two phases, Unit 1 in the first phase, and Units 2-4 in a yet-to-be-completed second phase.

FERC certified on Aug. 25, 2009, that installation of the new Unit 1 runner in 2007 resulted in an average annual generation increase of 18,009 megawatt-hours, representing a 2.51 percentage increase in generation at Comerford. TransCanada said the new runner provides significant additional energy during periods when only minimum flow is generated and the remaining units are shut down.

TransCanada originally had sought certification of a 4.9 percent generation gain. To calculate the incremental generation, TransCanada was required to develop a model of a historical generation baseline for the original unit. It could not use actual past generation because the new minimum flow requirement did not exist historically and Comerford had been operated for system support or load control, resulting in less than optimal generation.

FERC certified a historic generation baseline of 715,938 MWh for the project, compared to generation with improvements of 733,947 MWh.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 amended the Internal Revenue Code to apply a production tax credit to incremental production gains from efficiency improvements or capacity additions to existing hydropower facilities placed in service after Aug. 8, 2005, and before Jan. 1, 2014. (HydroWorld 2/14/09) The Internal Revenue Service determines whether to grant the credits after FERC certifies hydropower production. FERC has certified incremental generation for more than three dozen hydro projects since August 2005. (HydroWorld 5/30/09)

In July, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute’s governing board certified Fifteen Mile Falls, including Comerford, as “low-impact” hydropower. (HydroWorld 7/14/09)

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