FERC issues first hydropower plant license under new two-year process

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has awarded a license for the 5-MW Kentucky Lock and Dam 11 hydroelectric project, potentially opening the door for expedited approval as dictated by the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013.

The proposal was selected in August 2014 by FERC as a pilot project to test a two-year licensing process mandated by the legislation. Rye Development, through FFP New Hydro LLC, then filed a license application with FERC this past May.

“The implementation of this expedited process can help set the stage for increased development of new hydropower on existing dams throughout Kentucky and the United States,” Rye Development CEO Ramya Swaminathan said. “We are excited that we were able to assist FERC in building and testing the new licensing framework.”

Per stipulations of the legislation, FERC established minimum criteria for the two-year process including:

  • The project must cause little or no change to existing surface and groundwater flows and uses;
  • The project must not adversely affect federally listed threatened and endangered species;
  • If the project is proposed to be located at or to use a federal dam, the request to use the two-year process must include a letter from the dam owner saying the plan is feasible;
  • If the project would use any public park, recreation area or wildlife refuge, the request to use the two-year process must include a letter from the managing entity giving its approval to use the site; and
  • For a closed-loop pumped-storage project, the project must not be continuously connected to a naturally flowing water feature.

The plant will be located at the Kentucky River Authority’s existing Lock and Dam 11 on the Kentucky River in Estill and Madison counties. The $12 million project is expected to create up to 150 jobs during during construction and more for its operation, Swaminathan said, with completion of the project expected in 2018.

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