FERC licenses small Kansas project in six months

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has licensed a small hydro project on the Kansas River in only six months, one of several recent expedited licensings of small projects having few environmental issues.

The 6.5-MW Expanded Kansas River project (No. 13526) had a leg up on other projects since, as its name implies, it is a proposed expansion of the existing 2.14-MW Kansas River project at Bowersock Mills Dam in Lawrence, Kan. In its Feb. 8, 2010, license application, applicant Bowersock Mills and Power Co. said it would surrender its 25-year-old license exemption (No. 2644) for the existing project upon approval of the Expanded Kansas River project license.

Bowersock Mills Dam was built in 1874 and has generated electricity since 1905.

FERC approved the license for the expanded project Aug. 19, noting that issues needing to be addressed were adequately identified during the pre-filing period and that no new issues were likely to be identified through additional scoping. FERC declared in April that no further scoping would be needed, accelerating the process.

Also in April, FERC staff presented a small hydropower action plan to the commission to expedite review of small hydro applications. It was noted at that time that applicants who identify and address issues early, and whose projects have few environmental effects are more likely to win a fast track to approval.

“All of the agencies involved were on board for this so that contributed to the speedy issuance of the license,” FERC spokesman Celeste Miller said. “Also, before the licensee came in with the application, they did a lot of work on the pre-application process.”

FERC’s new Small/Low Impact Hydropower Program Internet site lists the Expanded Kansas River project as the most recent of 23 small projects since 2006 that were expedited in less than one year.

The project includes the existing 665-foot-long, 17-foot-tall timber crib Bowersock Dam; the existing south powerhouse containing seven turbine generators totaling 2.14 MW; and a new north powerhouse on the opposite end of the dam, containing four units totaling 4.397 MW. The run-of-river project includes new recreation sites and is to employ best management practices to protect water quality and control sediment and debris during construction.

In its economic analysis, FERC estimated the project would have an average annual cost of $2.5 million, or about $77.90 per megawatt-hour. It said that compares to a cost of alternative power of $70 per MWh. That would result in a first year cost of $235,000, or $7.19 per MWh, more than the cost of alternative power.

However, the commission noted hydropower generation is relatively insensitive to inflation in the future compared to the cost alternative fossil-fueled generation. Additionally, it cited the ancillary service benefits provided by hydro that help maintain stability of the power system.

For more FERC news, click here.

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