Hydro Currents

U.S. House refers legislation to terminate EPA to committee

A bill that would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and passed to committee for consideration in early February. House Resolution 861 was introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), alongside Republicans from Mississippi, Georgia and Kentucky.

The text of the bill had not been posted to the congressional website as of Feb. 8. Emails and social media posts from the co-sponsors indicate EPA’s dissolution would give environmental oversight authority to the states. The change would, according to the representatives, stimulate small business growth. Eliminating EPA would also potentially elminate the Clean Power Plan.

H.R. 861 is the latest federal move under the Trump Administration to limit or eliminate EPA’s authority. Trump’s appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head EPA has been viewed as an effort to kill the agency from within.

In related news, President Donald Trump issued orders Jan. 23 that have frozen all EPA grants and contracts, putting on hold the billions awarded annually by EPA for research and development, land restoration and enhancement, and environmental monitoring.

Sources within EPA say they are unsure whether the freeze is temporary or indefinite, although it would seem likely that it will be in place at least until the Senate completes Pruitt’s confirmation.

Legislative update: Virginia, Oregon, Hawaii

Several recent state bills relating to hydroelectric power have moved forward. Below is an update:

In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe is expected to sign HB 1760, a bill that authorizes investor-owned electric utilities to petition the State Corporation Commission for approval of a rate adjustment clause for recovery of the costs of pumped storage and storage hydro facilities that use renewable energy as all or a portion of their power source.

In Oregon, HB 2136 creates a schedule by which a certain percentage of electricity sold by an electric company to retail electricity consumers must be generated by qualifying small-scale renewable energy projects, including hydropower. Public opinions on the bill were heard in early February.

And in Hawaii, HB 635 has been introduced, which would allocate up to $6.4 million in special purpose revenue bonds to the Honolulu Board of Water Supply and Hawaiian Electric Co. THe money would be used to upgrade Nuuanu Dam No. 4, allowing it to serve as part of a proposed pumped-storage facility.

PG&E will not relicense 26.4-MW DeSabla-Centerville

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) will withdraw its application for a new Federal Energy Regulatory Commission operating license for its 26.4-MW DeSabla-Centerville facility in mid-February and request FERC initiate its “orphan project” process. This would allow for other qualified entities to apply for a license to operate the facility in the future, which PG&E says it supports.

“PG&E recognizes the importance of the DeSabla-Centerville facility to the local communities, including its role in supporting environmental resources, meeting the needs of farms and other water users, and providing public recreation,” says Debbie Powell, senior director of power generation operations at PG&E.

PG&E says DeSabla-Centerville, on Butte Creek in California, is no longer economically viable for its customers, due to renewable energy markets becoming increasingly more competitive, customer demand from PG&E declining due to customer-owned solar and community choice aggregation programs, and increasingly costly regulatory requirements to operate the hydroelectric facility.

DeSabla-Centerville includes the DeSabla, Toadtown and Centerville powerhouses, three reservoirs, and canals and flumes.

Two bills introduced to expand hydropower in Alaska

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have introduced two bills designed to expand hydroelectric power in Alaska:

  • S. 214 authorizes expansion of the 33.5-MW Terror Lake project near Kodiak, allowing Kodiak and the largest Coast Guard base in the U.S. to continue to receive reliable, emissions-free energy
  • S. 215 authorizes a stay of the license for the 9.6-MW Mahoney Lake project near Ketchikan, allowing the Southeast Alaska Power Agency to consider this renewable project for up to 10 additional years

“My top priority as chairman of the Energy Committee is to deliver for Alaska,” Murkowski said. “These bills will boost hydropower projects to help provide clean, reliable, and affordable electricity to our communities.” She said these measures, along with two others introduced last week, “were in the conference report for our broad, bipartisan energy bill last year, and I’m optimistic we will be able to see them signed into law in this new Congress.”

The measures were referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources after their introduction.

Reclamation to apply for Clean Water Act permit for Grand Coulee Dam

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation will apply for a Clean Water Act Section 402 permit for its Grand Coulee Dam and 6,809-MW hydropower facility as part of a proposed settlement agreement reached Jan. 19 with Columbia Riverkeepers.

According to data HydroWorld.com received after an inquiry to the U.S. Department of Justice, Columbia Riverkeeper alleged that Reclamation is operating Grand Coulee Dam in violation of CWA section 301, 33 U.S.C. § 1311. The plaintiff alleges the dam is discharging oil, grease and other pollutants into the Columbia River without a permit required under CWA section 402, 33 U.S.C. § 1342.

Reclamation will apply for a section 402 permit, provide notifications to Columbia Riverkeeper, and undertake measures to reduce or account for potential pollution from the dam:

  • Within 18 months, assess whether it is feasible to switch from using dam components that require lubrication to non-lubricated components, as well as switch from using current lubricants to “environmentally acceptable lubricants” on certain equipment.
  • Prepare a report that addresses the feasibility of those changes and, if it would be feasible to make the changes within five years during regularly scheduled maintenance, prepare a projected schedule for completing the changes.

Bay resigns from FERC after LaFleur named chair

Commissioner Norman Bay announced his resignation from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hours after President Donald Trump named Cheryl LaFleur acting chairwoman, leaving the agency with just two sitting members.

via a letter submitted to FERC Jan. 26. Bay’s resignation is effective Feb. 3, or 16 months before his term was to end.

His absence leaves LaFleur and Commissioner Colette Honorable and puts an urgency on the White House to fill the third position necessary for a quorum. Federal law dictates at least three of the commission’s five spots must be filled for FERC to make substantive orders, initiatives and regulations. The lack of a quorum also halts FERC’s ability to resolve pending proceedings and conduct other business.

No more than three of FERC’s commissioners can be of the same political party.

Other staff changes later announced by LaFleur include Max Mizner leaving, David Morenoff named General Counsel, Ann Miles retiring (previously announced), Terry Turpin replacing Miles as director of the Office of Energy Projects, John Wood replacing Turpin Acting Deputy Director of OEP, Jamie Simler returning to Office of Energy Market Regulation, and Steven Wellner named Acting Chief of Staff.

Document hints at hydro’s role in Trump’s energy plan

A document leaked by the McClatchy media group in late January could offer clues about the role the Trump Administration envisions for hydroelectric power. “Emergency & National Security Projects” lists 50 national infrastructure priorities ,compiled for the National Governors Association while Donald Trump was President-elect. Several provisions have potential ties to dams and hydro:

No. 11: South Carolina Dams Accelerated Repairs. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would use up to $850 million in federal funding for repair and safety improvement work at more than 600 South Carolina dams. These high or significant hazard dams are among those damaged during a thousand-year rainfall in 2015 and again in 2016 during Hurricane Matthew.

No. 12: Hydroelectric Plants Operated by the Corps. The Corps generates $5 billion annually from the hydro projects it owns and operates, the document says, while operating nearly 20% below the industry average of 99% efficiency. Section 12 allocates $4 billion to upgrade and replace decades-old generating equipment.

No. 21: Champlain Hudson Power Express. Blackstone Group would receive $2.2 billion for the Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line. The link would connect southern Canada to the New York City area, allowing for the import of up to 1,000 MW of hydroelectric power from Quebec.

No. 49: Energy Storage and Grid Modernization. Fearing blackouts, the “California Public Utilities Commission has mandated mitigation measures, including an expedited procurement for local energy storage sources,” the document says. The report does not mention specific storage sources.

Canadian court dismisses First Nations case against 1.1-GW Site C

Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed a lawsuit that would have prevented work on British Columbia’s 1.1-GW Site C plant from advancing. A suit filed by the Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations alleged that Site C’s developer, BC Hydro, was infringing on treaty rights and that any decision should be made by the Governor-in-Council instead of a court.

Governor-in-Council appointees are selected by recommendation of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, and these appointees act as advisors and advocates in the legislative process.

A three-judge panel from the court argued, however, that the Governor-in-Council “does not possess any expertise and is not equipped to determine contested questions of law and complex factual issues,” and that it “cannot exercise adjudicative functions.” The court dismissed the claim, saying “a full discovery, examination of expert evidence, as well as historical testimonial and documentary evidence” should be used to determine whether treaty rights were violated.

The suit was filed in November 2014.

Feds reject Idaho utility’s bid to negate Oregon fish law

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has rejected a request by Idaho Power to negate an Oregon law requiring fish passage as part of relicensing for the three-dam Hells Canyon Complex on the Snake River between Idaho and Oregon.

The filing said the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution that has to do with federal authority over states pre-empts the Oregon law. But FERC said it found no reason why Oregon couldn’t require fish passage and reintroduction as part of relicensing. Idaho lawmakers have prohibited moving salmon and steelhead upstream of the three dams, leaving the relicensing in limbo.

Idaho Power’s 50-year operating license expired in 2005.

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Hydro Currents

FirstEnergy seeks to sell interest in 3,003-MW Bath County pumped storage facility

A Form 8-K submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by FirstEnergy Corp. indicates FirstEnergy subsidiaries plan to negotiate for the sale of several generating assets, including the company’s interest in the 3,003-MW Bath County pumped storage facility.

The filing says FirstEnergy seeks a purchase price of $885 million for some of its assets and the company continues to explore “all alternatives for the remaining generation assets at [FirstEnergy Supply] and AE Supply, including, but not limited to, legislative efforts to convert generation from competitive operations to a regulated or regulated-like construct.”

Included in the offering are 13 plants (six natural gas, four coal and three nuclear) and the Bath facility. FirstEnergy President and Chief Operating Officer Charles Jones said some units could be closed if buyers are not found. Jones also said it is possible FirstEnergy could sell off all, or most, of its coal, nuclear, hydro, gas and oil plants that make up its FirstEnergy Supply unit.

Groups want Trump to weigh in on breaching Lower Snake River dams

Dozens of organizations and decision-makers that oppose breaching the Lower Snake River dams in Washington are urging that the incoming Trump Administration directly intervene and/or convene a “God Squad” committee to put an end to discussions about breaching them.

Federal judge Michael Simon recently ordered that a new environmental study be done after the federal government’s latest plan for protecting threatened and endangered salmon indicated that breaching Snake River dams did not need to be considered and would cost taxpayers at least $3 billion.

In addition to the valuable hydropower generation these four facilities provide, the Lower Snake River Dams provide irrigation for 60,000 acres of high-value irrigated crops. “If the dams were breached, the pump stations would not function,” stated Dr. Darryll Olsen, Board Representative for the Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association. “The end result would be a substantial reduction in irrigated acres, which would have a huge negative impact on food processing and agriculture in the Pacific Northwest.”

Editor’s Note: This content was originally featured on GenerationHub.com, a sister site of HydroWorld.com.

FERC proposal could improve conditions for U.S. pumped-storage development

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could help increase the role of pumped storage in the U.S. While independent system operators (ISO) and regional transmission organizations (RTO) have developed plans for integrating storage resources into their portfolios, the U.S. lacks a common framework for using storage and other aggregated distributed energy resources.

The proposal requires “each RTO and ISO to revise its tariff to establish a participation model consisting of market rules that, recognizing the physical and operational characteristics of electric storage resources, accommodates their participation in the organized wholesale electric markets.” The notice would “define distributed energy resource aggregators as a type of market participant that can participate in the organized wholesale electric markets under the participation model that best accommodates the physical and operational characteristics of its distributed energy resource aggregation.”

The second portion of the proposal would require each RTO and ISO to revise its tariff to allow distributed energy resource aggregators, including storage resources, to participate directly in organized wholesale electric markets. Each would be required to “establish distributed energy resource aggregators as a type of market participant and allow the distributed energy resource aggregators to register aggregations under the participation model in the RTO/ISO tariff that best accommodates the physical and operational characteristics of the distributed energy resource aggregation.”

This would address a problem in the current model, under which operators must register storage resources as other types of resources, potentially limiting compensation for the services they can offer.

Boralex closes financing for 16-MW Yellow Falls

Canadian developer Boralex Inc. has closed US$55.6 million in financing for the 16-MW Yellow Falls hydropower project on the Mattagami River near Smooth Rock Falls in Ontario, Canada.

Canada Life Insurance Co., Great West Life Insurance Co. and London Life Insurance Co. provided enough long-term financing to cover about 81% of the estimated 1.5 million to 5.4 million project cost.

Yellow Falls is a collaboration with the Taykwa Tagamou Nation and Mattagami First Nation, which have contractual rights to acquire an interest of up to 31.25% in the scheme. Boralex began construction work on the project in April and expects to commission the facility at the end of the second quarter of 2017.

The powerhouse will contain two 8-MW turbine-generator units. A spillway with three vertical-lift, fixed-roller gates and one set of stoplogs will be built adjacent to the powerhouse. The powerhouse will be flanked by two sections of dam — each about 15 meters high. A 39-year power purchase agreement is in place with Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).

Enel starts operation of integrated geothermal-hydropower plant in Utah

Enel S.p.A., through subsidiary Enel Green Power North America Inc. (EGPNA), has begun operation of its Cove Fort geothermal-hydropower plant. EGPNA added fully submersible downhole generator technology to a geothermal injection well at Cove Fort in Utah. The facility began operation in 2013 with a capacity of 25 MW.

The initial testing phase, from July to September 2016, revealed that adding the hydro generator increased output by 1,008 MWh, offsetting the energy consumption of the Cove Fort plant by 8.8%.

The generator technology captures the energy of the water flowing back into the earth while also better controlling the flow of brine back into the ground, Enel says. The name of the company providing the technology was not disclosed.

“The operation of this technology, a world’s first, is a major milestone for the geothermal industry and a reinforcement of our commitment to innovation and energy efficiency,” said Francesco Venturini, head of Enel’s Global Renewable Energies. “We have once again discovered a more resourceful way to maximise plant operations and power generation with the aim of using this technology at our facilities around the world.”

Trump appoints Clean Power Plan opponent administrator of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump appointed Scott Pruitt administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in early December.

Pruitt, a Republican who served as attorney general for Oklahoma, was one of several state attorney generals who began preparing to battle the then-unannounced Clean Power Plan as early as 2014. Pruitt was among 28 other state attorney generals and hundreds of companies that would eventually file suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in opposition of the plan.

Exactly what Pruitt’s tenure might ultimately mean for the EPA, and hydropower, remains to be seen.

Missouri River Energy seeks permit for 1,200-MW pumped storage project

Missouri River Energy Services applied Dec. 1 to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a preliminary permit, good for up to three years of feasibility work on the 1,200-MW Gregory County Pump Storage Project in South Dakota.

The upper reservoir will cover about 1,200 acres and be constructed by an earthen embankment levee with an average height of 62 feet. The reservoir will receive water from the existing Lake Francis Case reservoir created on the Missouri River by the Ft. Randall Dam. Water will be pumped to the upper reservoir by a reversible Francis turbine-pump unit connected to a reversible synchronous generator-motor located in an underground powerhouse. There will be a total of eight units. Four will share a common penstock about 6,000 feet long, meaning two penstocks will be constructed. It is anticipated the upper reservoir will be able to sustain enough water flow downhill for 26 hours of operation at 1,200 MW.

A preliminary permit allows the developer exclusivity on project development during the permit term.

Editor’s Note: This content was originally featured on GenerationHub.com, a sister site of HydroWorld.com.

Reclamation’s climate change adaptation strategy supports increasing water management flexibility

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan Lopez has released a report that provides a status update on Reclamation’s actions to meet the challenges of climate change on Western water supplies. “Climate change poses clear risks to our ability to deliver water and power,” Lopez said. “In light of those risks, Reclamation and our partners will take key steps that line up with the goals of this strategy, helping to ensure a sustainable water supply across the West.”

The strategy identifies four goals to improve Reclamation’s ability to consider climate change information in its decision making: increase water management flexibility, enhance climate adaptation planning, improve infrastructure resiliency, and expand information sharing. Reclamation is making progress on the activities identified in the five goals:

  • Five reservoir operation pilot studies are evaluating how weather, hydrology and climate change information can better inform reservoir operations;
  • Hydropower optimizations could increase generation by 410,000 to 1.2 million MWh per year;
  • Supporting integration of climate change information across planning activities through approaches developed in the basin studies and the drought response program;
  • Providing nearly $1.2 million to cost-share seven wildfire resiliency projects through the Western Watershed Enhancement Program; and
  • Offering climate change training courses for water resource professionals and for general audience on integrating climate change considerations into water resources planning.

The actions identified in the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy are part of the Department of the Interior’s implementation of former U.S. President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

Eagle Creek Renewable Energy acquires 19-MW Worumbo hydropower facility

Eagle Creek Renewable Energy LLC has acquired Brown Bear II Hydro Holdings LLC, which owns the 19-MW Worumbo run-of-river hydroelectric facility on the Androscoggin River in Lisbon Falls, Maine. A purchase price was not disclosed.

Eagle Creek said the facility supplies nearly 95 million kWh of clean, renewable energy in New England each year and it will operate and manage Worumbo. The facility will continue to supply energy under a power purchase agreement.

Bud Cherry, Eagle Creek chief executive officer, said, “We are extremely pleased to announce this substantial acquisition. It is an another important step in achieving our long-term growth plan of increasing the scale of Eagle Creek, providing strong risk-adjusted returns for our investors and creating significant value for all of our stakeholders. This addition to our portfolio solidifies our position on the Androscoggin River, and it positions Eagle Creek to continue the substantial annual growth and value creation we have achieved since our founding in 2010.”