FERC relicenses 636-MW Smith Mountain pumped-storage in Virginia

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued a relicense to Appalachian Power Co., allowing the utility to continue operating the 636-MW Smith Mountain pumped-storage project for another 30 years on Virginia’s Roanoke River.

FERC staff issued a final environmental impact statement in August, recommending the relicensing. (HydroWorld 8/12/09) The EIS endorsed Appalachian Power’s relicense proposal, plus staff environmental modifications and mandatory conditions from the state of Virginia’s water quality certification under Clean Water Act Section 401.

The FERC order, issued Dec. 15, 2009, includes operating guidelines for Smith Mountain Lake, plus Leesville Lake and the Roanoke and Staunton rivers to Kerr Reservoir. The license incorporates operating procedures and individual management plans that address issues including water management, water quality, debris, sedimentation, aquatic vegetation, navigational guides, endangered species, shoreline protection, and recreation.

“We believe the order is a good outcome that protects the scenic, recreational, and environmental attributes of the project, while at the same time provides essential electricity for our customers at a reasonable cost,” Appalachian Power Hydro Operations Manager Frank Simms said.

Going on line in 1964, the Smith Mountain project (No. 2210) is the largest hydro project in the system of Appalachian Power’s parent, American Electric Power. It includes the 586-MW Smith Mountain pumped-storage development with a 235-foot-tall, 816-foot-long concrete arch dam; a 20,260-acre reservoir; and a powerhouse with two conventional generating units and three reversible pump-turbine units. The project also includes the conventional 50-MW Leesville development with a 94-foot-high, 980-foot-long concrete gravity dam; a 3,260-acre reservoir; and a powerhouse containing two generating units.

During peak demand periods, the project is operated as a peaking facility. During off-peak periods, water that passes through the Smith Mountain development into Leesville Lake is pumped back into Smith Mountain Lake, where it can be used again for generation. The Leesville development operates in an auto-cycling mode to provide an average weekly flow of 650 cubic feet per second to the Roanoke River.

The FERC EIS said the staff’s relicensing alternative only slightly reduced the project’s net annual benefit — the difference between project revenues and costs — while modifying the proposed erosion monitoring, sedimentation monitoring, and water management plans.

The staff alternative plus the state mandatory conditions results in an estimated net annual benefit of $8,600,183, compared to: $8,606,389 under the licensee’s original proposal; $8,549,080 under the original proposal plus state mandatory conditions alone; and $9,866,785 net annual benefit if the project had been allowed to continue operating under the conditions of its original license.

The final EIS also said the proposal “would provide nearly optimal habitat for the species of concern in the Roanoke River, mainly black bass and striped bass.

For more FERC News, click here.

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