FERC licenses 400-MW Iowa Hill pumped-storage as part of California hydro project

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has authorized construction of the 400-MW Iowa Hill pumped-storage development as part of relicensing the 637.3-MW Upper American River hydroelectric project in California.

Relicensing the now total 1,037.3-MW Upper American River Project (No. 2101) to Sacramento Municipal Utility District was the major licensing activity in FERC’s Energy Infrastructure Update for July 2014, compiled by FERC’s Office of Energy Projects. FERC followed that up Aug. 20 by relicensing a neighboring project to Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 7-MW Chili Bar (No. 2155), immediately downstream.

FERC staff issued a final environmental impact statement in 2008 endorsing the relicensing of both Upper American River and Chili Bar. SMUD built the Chili Bar project for PG&E to compensate it for loss of its Project No. 78, which was inundated when SMUD built Slab Creek Dam. FERC granted relicenses to the projects that call for coordinated operations and that will expire at the same time after 50 years.

Iowa Hill is to be an off-stream plant that pumps water from a lower reservoir, the existing Slab Creek Reservoir, during off-peak hours to a new upper reservoir, Iowa Hill Reservoir. Water is to be released during peak-load hours from the upper reservoir through a tunnel system to a new powerhouse containing three 133-MW pump-turbines.

In addition to Iowa Hill, Upper American River includes seven existing developments: 70.5-MW Loon Lake, 28.1-MW Robbs Peak, 10.4-MW Jones Fork, 40-MW Union Valley, 123-MW Jaybird, 144-MW Camino, and 450-kW Slab Creek/224-MW White Rock.

The FERC relicenses carry terms and conditions for project operation, including articles of a settlement agreement between the utilities and federal and state resource agencies.

As relicensed, the Upper American River Project, including Iowa Hill, would generate 2,673,000 MWh in the first year at $38.11 per MWh less than the cost of alternative power. Chili Bar would generate 31,291 MWh at $15.38/MWh less than the cost of alternative power.

SMUD awarded owner’s engineers contracts for Iowa Hill in May to Jacobs Associates, GEI Consultants, HDR Engineering, AF-Consult of Switzerland, Carlton Engineering, AMEC, IEC Corporation, Northwest Hydraulic Consultants, Stillwater Sciences, Ascent Environmental, Crux Subsurface and Foxfire Constructors. The departments of Energy and Interior awarded $6.4 million in hydropower research and development grants in 2011 for Upper American River.

The Upper American River relicense order may be obtained from the FERC Internet site at http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/common/opennat.asp?fileID=13600126. The Chili Bar order may be obtained at http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/common/opennat.asp?fileID=13618719.

Alaska project on line; New Hampshire project seeks exemption

FERC’s July Energy Infrastructure Update also reported an Alaska hydro project came on line and that a New Hampshire project seeks an exemption from licensing.

The commission said Ketchikan Public Utilities placed in service the 4.6-MW Whitman Lake hydro project (No. 11841), four miles east of Ketchikan, Alaska. The project utilizes water from Whitman Lake, an existing impoundment of Whitman Creek that supplies water to a fish hatchery. It is augmented by flows from a new diversion on Achilles Creek.

FERC also reported that 5440 Hydro Inc. filed an application for a (maximum) 10-MW exemption from licensing for the 600-kW Brooklyn Dam hydroelectric project (No. 13806) to be built on the Upper Ammonoosuc River in Coos County, N.H.

FERC, which previously used the infrastructure update as an in-house tool, began making the monthly update public beginning with December 2010. The report allows the public to track the activities of the Office of Energy Projects in the areas of hydropower, natural gas, electric generation, and electric transmission.

The Office of Energy Projects’ Energy Infrastructure Update for July 2014 may be obtained from the FERC Internet site under http://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2014/jul-infrastructure.pdf.

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