PG&E announces plan to sell 4.8-MW Hamilton Branch powerhouse

PG&E says it will seek potential buyers for its Hamilton Branch hydropower facilities, which includes a small 4.8-MW powerhouse and the Mountain Meadows Reservoir.

The Hamilton Branch powerhouse is located on Lake Almanor in Plumas County. It receives water from Mountain Meadows Reservoir near Westwood in Lassen County via the Hamilton Branch canal and penstock. The Hamilton Branch facilities were constructed in 1921 by the Red River Lumber Company, and PG&E acquired them in 1946.

Later this month, PG&E will issue a “request for offers” to seek a new owner for its Hamilton Branch facilities as they no longer serve as an economical source of electricity generation for the utility’s customers. In the meantime, PG&E will continue to maintain the facilities, and Mountain Meadows Reservoir will remain available for public recreation, according to a press release.

“PG&E wants to find buyers who have experience in operating a hydroelectric system and working within the relevant regulatory processes. Hamilton Branch has unique characteristics and we believe it has the potential to yield significant value for the right owner. Price is not the only criteria we consider when selecting a buyer,” said Jan Nimick, vice president of power generation at PG&E.

The Hamilton Branch hydro facilities are separate from PG&E’s nearby Upper North Fork Feather River project, which includes Lake Almanor, Canyon Dam, Butt Valley powerhouse and reservoir, Caribou No. 1 and Caribou No. 2 powerhouses, Oak Flat powerhouse and their associated reservoirs.

Because employees who support Hamilton Branch also support numerous PG&E hydropower facilities in the area, no employee impacts are anticipated, PG&E said.

PG&E expects to select the best overall proposal for Hamilton Branch and begin formal negotiations with a buyer in mid- to late 2021. Approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will be needed before any transfer of ownership.

A conservation easement held by the Feather River Land Trust encumbers the property, including PG&E’s land under and around Mountain Meadows Reservoir. The easement ensures permanent protection of beneficial public values for the property, including cultural and historic resources, recreation and biological resources. The easement also provides for continued public access and informal uses on the property.

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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