FERC launches small/low impact hydro Internet site

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has unveiled its Small/Low Impact Hydropower Program Internet site, explaining how developers can quickly and efficiently win FERC approval to build and operate small hydro projects.

The new web page, announced Aug. 31, is one of the results of a FERC investigation into simplifying the process to obtain small hydropower licenses and exemptions. (HydroWorld 12/4/09) On Aug. 25, FERC announced it signed a memorandum of understanding with the state of Colorado under which Colorado is to develop a pilot program to advance FERC exemptions for small hydro projects in that state. (HydroWorld 8/25/10)

The web page is designed to guide applicants through the process of selecting a hydro project site, determining if a project is jurisdictional, selecting a FERC licensing process, consulting with stakeholders, and preparing a license or exemption application. (HydroWorld 4/16/10)

Director Jeff Wright of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects recently told a congressional committee that the web page would offer a user-friendly resource with simple, plain-English tools to help applicants understand and complete licensing and exemption processes expeditiously.

“New tools on the website that will make it easier for applicants to apply for a license or exemption include: license and exemption application templates that allow the user to input data, information on how to obtain waivers of commission processes, and ways applicants can expedite the process,” Wright told the House Subcommittee on Water and Power on July 29.

The Small/Low Impact Hydropower Program website is part of the FERC Internet site, www.ferc.gov, under www.ferc.gov/industries/hydropower/gen-info/licensing/small-low-impact.asp.

FERC adopts action plan to expedite small hydro

Of the 1,600 hydropower projects of 54,000 MW that are regulated by FERC, 71 percent have an installed capacity of 5 MW or less. Wright noted a 2006 Department of Energy study estimated 60,000 MW of additional hydropower capacity could be developed in the United States using existing dams alone.

The commission has seen increased interest in small hydropower in recent years, with 50 preliminary permits issued to study small sites in 2009, compared to 15 in 2007.

“This increased interest may have been generated, at least in part, by state renewable portfolio standards, renewable energy incentives, and an interest in promoting distributed generation,” Wright said.

As a result of its small hydro investigation, FERC staff presented an action plan to the commission in April to expedite review of small hydro applications. The plan includes:
o adding new Internet-based resources to the commission website to make it easier for applicants to understand and complete the licensing process;
o updating or creating memoranda of understanding with other agencies to improve coordination;
o continuing FERC’s small hydropower hotline, (1) 866-914-2849, and e-mail address, smallhydro@ferc.gov, to answer applicant questions; and
o educating potential small hydropower developers through a new education and outreach program.

For more FERC news, click here.

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