The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has relicensed the 3.5-MW Ames hydroelectric project on Colorado’s San Miguel River, granting the 119-year-old hydro plant another 40 years of operation.
The Ames project began service in 1891 as the first power plant in the world to generate, transmit, and sell alternating current electricity for commercial purposes. The current powerhouse went into service in 1906.
FERC issued a relicense (No. 400) May 19, splitting off the historic Ames plant from the former 11.5-MW Tacoma-Ames project. The 8-MW Tacoma development was relicensed in January as a separate project (No. 12589) to be expanded to 12 MW. (Hydro Review June 2008)
Project operator Public Service Co. of Colorado filed separate relicense applications for the plants, saying they constitute separate hydroelectric units in separate watersheds that can be more reasonably operated and regulated under separate licenses.
The commission relicensed Ames with several staff-recommended mitigation measures and resource agency mandatory conditions. FERC described the changes as a moderate amount of environmental measures including some construction associated with providing minimum flows to Lake Fork.
With proposed modifications in the relicense, FERC estimated the project would have a levelized annual cost of $1.4 million or $113.22 per megawatt-hour. It would produce 12,682 MWh annually, valued at $812,410, or $64.06 per MWh. In its first year of continued operation, FERC said, the project would cost $623,419, or $49.16 per MWh, more than the likely alternative cost of power.
“Although our analysis shows that the project as licensed herein would cost more to operate than the estimated cost of alternative power, it is the applicant who must decide whether to accept this license and any financial risk that entails,” FERC said.
The commission added that hydro projects offer unique operational benefits to the electric utility system including the ability to help maintain power system stability and to respond to system blackouts by helping restart fossil-fired power plants.
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