Breaking News: Hydrocurrents

Judge allows Alcoa to start over with Yadkin environmental licensing

A decision by a North Carolina judge has granted Alcoa Power Generating’s motion to dismiss an appeal following the revocation of a water quality certificate for its Yadkin project.

Alcoa, primarily known for its aluminum production, received certification in May 2008 for 210-MW Yadkin, which includes four facilities along North Carolina’s Yadkin River. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) revoked that certification in December 2010, saying Alcoa had failed to disclose details on the Yadkin project’s ability to meet state water quality standards.

Alcoa had originally appealed the decision but filed a motion for it to be dismissed without prejudice in September. “This new path will help us avoid a lengthy legal path,” says E. Ray Barnham, Yadkin relicensing manager.

The judge’s decision has allowed Alcoa to file a new application, which, if approved by DENR, would last for 50 years.

Reclamation announces finalized LOPP requirements

The Bureau of Reclamation has finalized its Lease of Power Privilege (LOPP) Processes, Responsibilities, Timelines and Charges Directive and Standard. These standards define the LOPP process and how the agency works with non-federal entities and are a follow-up to a temporary directive and standard issued in April.

“Through these leases, Reclamation is able to work with non-federal entities and project beneficiaries to increase the amount of renewable hydropower produced in meeting the growing energy needs of the nation,” says Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor. He says the directive and standard provides a “clear and understanding process” to develop hydropower on Reclamation dams and canals.

The directive and standard provides timelines on LOPP requirements, assigns roles and responsibilities within the organization for LOPP development, sets a standard methodology across Reclamation for LOPP charges and identifies all potential charges for developers.

More details can be found at www.usbr.gov/recman/DandS.html#fac under Series FAC 04-08.

Group appeals FERC’s 2012 annual charges bills

A group of 10 licensees has appealed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s issuance of 2012 annual charges bills, contending $2.35 million in costs submitted by two federal agencies are inaccurate or unsubstantiated.

Recipients of benefits from federal activities – such as hydro licenses – pay annual charges to cover the government’s costs of providing those benefits. FERC bills licensees for its own and the costs of other federal agencies that participate in licensing.

FERC must determine the reasonableness of costs incurred by the other agencies. It requires agencies to submit their costs on a specific form by Dec. 31. It then allows licensees to review and comment on costs, holds a technical conference, and issues bills that divide the total costs among all licensees.

The appeal, led by the city of Idaho Falls, Idaho, challenges $1.91 million in costs from the National Marine Fisheries Service and $443,000 from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Filed Sept. 17 by Washington law firm Van Ness Feldman, the appeal is mostly critical of the NMFS’ Jan. 11 submission, which was fmade available to licensees Jan. 27. “NMFS’ summary information … did not meet the commission’s requirement for ‘detailed cost accounting reports or cost allocation analyses which support each cost category listed on the form,'” the licensees said. “NMFS’ filing consisted only of 17 pages of annual total cost summaries from each of NMFS’ various regional and other offices.”

Licensees also complained that NMFS provided no explanation of the cost codes for the annual total costs. Although FERC ordered NMFS to provide additional supporting information, the licensees said NMFS provided only a one-page response. On March 22, the day of the technical conference, a more detailed NMFS report was made available that still failed to meet FERC requirements, the licensees said.

Licensees also expressed concern about FWS reporting, and the agency confirmed numerous costs were not segregated according to municipal and non-municipal projects. Despite this, FERC included the disputed costs in the 2012 annual charges bills. Licensees accused FERC staff of “arbitrarily and capriciously” concluding the costs were reasonable under the Federal Power Act.

“…Commission staff’s decision to include over $1.91 million in costs reported by NMFS inexplicably departed from long-standing practice, lacked support of substantial evidence, and disregarded commission procedures,” the licensees argued. “By accepting NMFS’ untimely certified cost report, … staff ignored commission-mandated deadlines, undermining the very purpose of the technical conference and stripping licensees of an opportunity to raise and resolve issues prior to billing.”

Other appellants include the city of Seattle, Wash.; Chelan County, Wash., Public Utility District; Sacramento Municipal Utility District; South Sutter Water District; New York Power Authority; Consumers Energy Co.; Louisville Gas & Electric; FPL Energy Maine Hydro; and Merimil Limited Partnership.

Former Progress Energy CEO named head of TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority has chosen William D. Johnson to be its president and chief executive officer, effective Jan. 1, 2013. Johnson succeeds Tom Kilgore, who announced his retirement in September.

Johnson most recently served as CEO of Progress Energy, where he was instrumental in brokering the merger between Progress and Duke Energy in 2011. But, Duke announced that its CEO Jim Rogers would be named CEO of the combined company shortly before the merger was completed. This appointment caused Johnson to leave the company in August.

TVA says Kilgore will continue leading the US$11 billion federal agency until Johnson’s arrival, then help in the transition period following.

NHA urged hydropower advocates to support three pieces of legislation

Action on Capitol Hill slowed preceding November’s presidential election, but the National Hydropower Association used the October recess to push a trio of bills that would benefit the hydroelectric industry.

The three pieces of legislation caught in the limbo of lame duck season include the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2011, Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2012, and Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act of 2012.

The Hydropower Improvement Act, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkoski (R-Alaska) and eight bi-partisan co-sponsors in March 2011, passed a Senate committee by a voice vote more than a year ago but has been stuck on the Senate floor calendar. The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2012 – officially known as H.R. 5892 – passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a unanimous vote in July, and the Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R. 2842) appeared before the Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in September.

NHA says a delay into the next session essentially means starting the legislative process again.

HydroVision International is a Trade Show Executive Fastest 50 Winner

HydroVision International achieved a prestigious ranking among the fastest-growing trade shows in the U.S. as one of Trade Show Executive‘s Fastest 50 winners.

HydroVision International received recognition in the categories of the fastest growing trade shows in 2011 for net square feet of exhibit space sold and number of participating exhibitors. In 2011, HydroVision International’s exhibition featured 318 exhibitors showcasing products and services in more than 50 categories, including mechanical and electrical equipment, engineering services and dam safety and civil related technology.

“We appreciate Trade Show Executive‘s recognition of this important event,” says Marla Barnes, publisher of PennWell Corporation’s Hydro Group. “HydroVision International’s growth reflects the strength of this industry and the commitment of the companies that serve it.”

Trade Show Executive magazine provides news, views and tools to the managers of shows large and small so that show executives can turn innovative ideas into a competitive edge.

The HydroVision International Conference and Exhibition is held annually, drawing more than 3,000 attendees from more than 40 countries and more than 300 exhibitors. The 2013 event will take place July 23 to 26, 2013, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. To learn more, visit www.hydroevent.com.

Reclamation awards Andritz contract for work at 2,078-MW Hoover Dam

Andritz Hydro Corp. has won a US$1.5 million contract from the Bureau of Reclamation to supply four impulse turbine runners for use at 2,078-MW Hoover Dam. Andritz will perform computational fluid dynamic analysis and manufacture and deliver two runners with associated parts for Hoover’s Arizona Unit A0 and two runners and parts for Nevada Unit N0.

Reclamation awarded a $3.3 million contract to Voith Hydro in January for work on Hoover Dam’s Unit A8.

Hoover Dam is on the Colorado River on the Nevada/Arizona state line and was host to President Barack Obama, who made an impromptu stop there during a campaign break in early October. Hoover Dam and its accompanying 2,078-MW hydro plant have often been cited by Obama to illustrate the importance of government-funded public infrastructure, although the President says this was his first visit to the facility.

Siemens reaffirms commitment to hydro

Citing slow growth, low profit and high cost, Siemens AG is selling its solar energy business as part of a strategy to focus its renewable energy efforts in the hydropower and wind sectors.

“Due to the changed framework conditions, lower growth and strong price pressure in the solar markets,” Siemens said in a statement, “the company’s expectations for its solar energy activities have not been met.”

Siemens unveiled a plan earlier in October to develop an optimized infrastructure through cost reduction and the strengthening of its core activities. The company’s hydroelectric efforts include Voith Hydro, a joint effort between Voith Group and Siemens. In addition, the company owns the majority share in ocean energy company Marine Current Turbines Ltd.

Michael Suess, member of the managing board of Siemens AG and chief executive officer of its energy sector, said, “The importance of renewable energies in the global power mix will continue to grow, and hydropower and wind energy will remain the major renewable contributors.”

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Breaking News: Hydrocurrents

Senate subcommittee hears testimony on hydropower development legislation

Members of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources heard testimony Sept. 19 about legislation that could help expedite hydroelectric development along Bureau of Reclamation canals and ditches.

House Resolution 2842, called the “Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act,” passed the House earlier this year.

Now working its way through the Senate, H.R. 2842 received the support of Reclamation’s Deputy Commissioner for Policy, Administration and Budget, who testified before the Water and Power Subcommittee. “The Department of the Interior supports the goals of H.R. 2842, which aims to increase the generation of clean, renewable hydroelectric power in existing canals and conduits,” said Deputy Commissioner Grayford F. Payne. “The Department has an aggressive sustainable hydropower agenda, which we continue to implement under existing authorities.”

If approved by Congress, the bill would provide blanket authorization for installation of small hydropower on all Reclamation-owned canals and conduits. It also would require Reclamation to offer preference to water user organizations for the development of such projects under a Reclamation Lease of Power Privilege.

In addition, the bill would exempt small canal and conduit projects of less than 1.5 MW from the environmental assessment requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and designate Reclamation’s Power Resources Office as the lead point of contact for requests to develop canal and conduit hydropower.

“Reclamation will continue to review and assess potential new hydropower projects that provide a high economic return for the nation, are energy efficient, and can be accomplished in accordance with protections for fish and wildlife, the environment, or recreation,” Payne says. “As the nation’s second largest hydropower producer, Reclamation strongly believes in the past, present and bright future of this important electricity resource.”

Michigan approves energy standard ballot language

Ballot language that could increase Michigan’s renewable energy standard to 25% by 2025 was approved in late August by Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers.

The proposal, which could appear on ballots as early as Nov. 6, would require the state’s electric utilities to provide at least a quarter of their annual retail sales from renewable energy sources – including hydropower – by 2025.

If passed, the initiative would amend Article IV of the Michigan Constitution with an addition called Section 55, or, informally, the “20 by 2025” plan. Michigan has no capacity limit for what it considers “renewable” hydropower, but the state does not define pumped-storage facilities as renewable.

Michigan also excludes hydropower facilities that use dams constructed after the effective date of the state’s Public Act 295 of 2008, unless it involves a repair, replacement or upgrade of a dam already in existence at the time of the act’s passage.

Utilities would also be prohibited from increasing consumer charges more than 1% per year to achieve compliance with the 2025 standard, although annual deadline extensions could be granted to prevent rate increases from exceeding that limit.

The plan is designed to develop the state’s renewable sources in a “manner that fosters a diversity of energy generation technologies.”

A study conducted by Michigan State University indicates the renewable energy standard could create at least 74,000 jobs in the wind, solar, biomass and hydropower industries.

Should Michigan adopt the initiative, it would join more than 30 states that have already passed similar legislation.

Riverbank Power breaks ground on Dorena plant

In late August, Riverbank Power broke ground on the 7.5-MW Dorena plant. This run-of-river powerhouse will be constructed on Dorena Lake, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-owned dam.

The project will provide employment to 30 to 40 people during construction and is an investment of US$25.26 million in the economy, according to Riverbank Power.

“Today’s groundbreaking is great news for the Oregon families who will benefit from Dorena Lake’s clean, reliable, and affordable hydropower,” says Riverbank Power President and Chief Executive Officer John Douglas.

The project was given a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission operating license for 50 years.

Riverbank Power partnered with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the local watershed council, and stakeholders to protect the local wildlife habitats during development and operation of this project. As part of these efforts, the project will contribute funds for a restoration of the existing fish habitat and enhancements to the Row River watershed.

“I think this project can serve as an example for how other low-impact hydroelectric projects can be built, and I look forward to its completion,” says Oregon Senator Ron Wyden. “This project will provide 1,200 Oregon homes and businesses with renewable hydroelectric power, and do so while improving fish habitat and reducing CO2 emissions.”

The hydro plant is expected to be in operation in 2013.

Parties finalize agreements for 824-MW Muskrat Falls

A series of formal agreements to finalize Newfoundland and Labrador’s 824-MW Muskrat Falls hydropower project were reached at the end of July. The 13 deals, struck between private utility Emera Energy and crown corporation Nalcor Energy, are part of a 35-year deal that puts the controversial hydroelectric project one step closer to reality.

Muskrat Falls is one component of the Lower Churchill hydropower plan, which also includes the 2,250-MW Gull Island plant.

“Today’s signing represents a major step forward for Newfoundland and Labrador, and is another important milestone as we move closer towards a decision on sanctioning the project,” said Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy.

The parties had previously agreed to a term sheet in November 2010, but the two failed to extend terms of the agreement before its one-year expiration date.

Sources say the government of Newfoundland and Labrador will hold a political debate sometime this fall before deciding whether to sanction the project, which has sparked controversy throughout its development.

Progress seems to be moving forward, however, as the government of Nova Scotia announced in July that it had begun drafting regulations to govern the province’s regulatory review of a proposed subsea transmission lines associated with the US$6.1 billion project.

FERC approves license transfers for Vermont projects

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the transfer of 13 licenses totaling 48.648 MW from Central Vermont Public Service Corp. to Green Mountain Power Corp. in anticipation of the Vermont utilities’ upcoming merger.

In a Sept. 13 order, the commission approved the utilities’ request for action by Sept. 17 in order to accommodate a planned Oct. 1 closing of the merger transaction.

Licenses transferred include: 21.05-MW Lamoille River; 250-kW Pierce Mills, 700-kW Gage, 350-kW Arnold Falls, and 700-kW Passumpsic on the Passumpsic River; 275-kW Center Rutland, 14.03 Otter Creek, 3-MW Weybridge, and 2.25-MW Middlebury Lower on Otter Creek; 1.44-MW Cavendish on the Black River; 503-kW Taftsville on the Ottaquechee River; 1.9-MW Carver Falls on the Poultney River; and 2.2-MW Silver Lake on the Sucker Brook.

FERC also approved the utilities’ request to transfer the license of the Clay Hill Road transmission line.

Additionally, the utilities advised the commission they would be transferring ownership of two hydro projects that hold exemptions from FERC licensing and do not require FERC transfer approval. They are 1.5-MW Bradford/Smith on Waits River and 2.2-MW East Barnet on Passumpsic River.

Green Mountain already operates four hydroelectric projects totaling 23.72 MW: 5.52-MW Waterbury on the Little River, 2.6-MW Vergennes on Otter Creek, and 8.05-MW Essex and 7.55-MW Bolton Falls on the Winooski River.

In the first step of the merger, CVPS’ outstanding common equity is to be held by Northern New England Energy Corp., a unit of Montreal-based Gaz Metro Limited Partnership, which also owns all of Green Mountain’s common equity. In the second step of the merger, Green Mountain will succeed to the electric service responsibilities and ownership of CVPS’ facilities and CVPS will no longer exist.

Although ownership of CVPS’ hydro facilities will automatically move to Green Mountain, FERC approval was required for transfer of the 13 hydropower licenses, all in Vermont.

First U.S. commercial tidal turbine unit now online

North America’s first commercial marine tidal turbine is now online. The tidal turbine, located at Cobscook Bay in eastern Maine, began generating power in late August, but developer Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) wanted to wait for confirmation from the unit’s operators to confirm, which the company did in mid-September.

Bangor Hydro, which owns the transmission lines that connect to the submerged turbine, says the unit is currently operating at a capacity of about 180 kW.

The program calls for the eventual installation of more units to be deployed through the next four years. When work is complete, the total installed capacity of the project will be 4 MW.

“This historic moment elevates the U.S. to the world stage,” says Chris Sauer, ORPC president and chief executive officer. “We are now ready to bring our tidal energy systems and expertise to the international market.”

Work moving ahead on 36.4-MW Red Rock in Iowa

Missouri River Energy Services is pre-qualifying builders for the 36.4-MW Red Rock project on the Des Moines River in Iowa. MRES, a joint action agency helping provide power to municipal utilities, is acting on behalf of Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, which finances the construction and acquisition of generation for the municipals.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensed the project in 2011.

MRES is seeking a company to: design and construct a cofferdam, construct a reinforced concrete powerhouse, excavate or tunnel water conduits connecting the intake with the dam and the dam to the powerhouse, remove concrete to allow penetration of the conduits through the dam, construct approach and tailrace channels, construct an intake structure and conduit linings, design and install hydromechanical equipment and a powerhouse crane, construct a switchyard and transmission line, and install the units and appurtenant and switchyard equipment.

Construction is to run from August 2013 to August 2016.