FERC drops plan to deny further hydrokinetic permits on Mississippi

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has dropped plans to refuse to issue additional preliminary permits for hydrokinetic projects on the lower Mississippi River between Cairo, Ill., and the Gulf of Mexico.

Director Jeff Wright of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects announced April 1 that FERC was proposing to deny additional lower Mississippi hydrokinetic permits. The proposal was in a show cause letter to Free Flow Power Corp. and Northland Power Mississippi River LLC. Between them the two developers hold, or have applied for, preliminary permits for 141 project sites covering all but a few miles of the 850-mile reach of the river.

FERC had said it did not think competition would be promoted by allowing two applicants to tie up such a large number of permits and that it appeared unlikely that either applicant would be able to develop license applications for more than a small percentage of the sites. Both developers responded, strongly opposing a shutdown of permitting on the lower Mississippi.

Free Flow Power had said hydrokinetic generation involves gathering more dispersed energy across larger areas than conventional hydropower. It said neither the number of sites nor the number of river miles is a meaningful measure of the magnitude of FFP’s proposed developments.

“It would devastate FFP’s ability to follow through with license applications for projects in which it has already invested significant investment dollars and diligent efforts under initial permits,” FFP said of the proposed change.

Northland’s attorney, Carolyn Elefant, had added, “Here, the commission’s proposal to decline to issue any preliminary permits for the Mississippi River sites is inconsistent with the commission’s (1) past precedent on issuance of successive permits and (2) policy of promoting competition and limiting site banking articulated in the Notice of Inquiry and Policy Statement Preliminary Permits for Wave, Current and Instream New Technology Hydropower (February 15, 2007).”

FERC letters inform developers of course change

FERC’s change of course was almost an aside in June 9 letters to the two developers.

“After reviewing all of the resulting filings, staff has determined that it is appropriate to continue processing permit applications on the lower Mississippi River at this time,” Chief Mark Pawlowski of the South Branch, Division of Hydropower Licensing, wrote the developers.

One letter announced that Free Flow Power’s applications for 43 permits had been accepted for processing by the commission. The other informed Northland Power Mississippi that its applications for 40 permits were deficient and requested additional information within 30 days.

In its April 29 response, Free Flow Power had said it would defer to FERC’s objective to promote competition and immediately withdrew 58 of 60 applications for new sites on 419 miles of the Mississippi, which had been filed Jan. 10.

For more FERC news, click here.

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