FERC relicensing combines three hydro projects into 960.9-MW Coosa River

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has relicensed three Alabama Power Co. hydroelectric projects, combining them into a single 960.9-MW Coosa River project.

Alabama Power, a unit of the Southern Co. (NYSE: SO), proposed combining its 690.9-MW Coosa River (No. 2146), 170-MW Mitchell (No. 82), and 100-MW Jordan (No. 618) projects and relicensing them under the Coosa River name and number for a total of 960.9-MW. In 2009, Alabama Power received $6 million in economic stimulus funds to upgrade units at three Coosa River plants.

In 2010, FERC staff issued an environmental assessment recommending the combined project be relicensed based on Alabama Power’s proposal plus FERC staff modifications. Alabama Power proposed no increase in capacity but proposed operational changes to raise winter water levels at three reservoirs, minimum flows to enhance aquatic habitat and species, a water quality monitoring plan, and funding for aquatic enhancements.

FERC approved additional staff-recommended measures including a drought management plan, pool elevation operational changes, an erosion repair and monitoring plan, adaptive management of instream flows, minimum flow studies, fish passage consultations, and a revised recreation plan. The staff modifications are based on recommendations of federal and state fish and wildlife agencies.

FERC said as relicensed, with resource agency mandatory conditions and staff recommendations, the project would produce power annually at a cost of $219.3 million, or $71.90 per MWh, less than the cost of alternative power. Under Alabama Power’s original proposal it would produce power annually for $219.6 million, or $71.80/MWh, less than alternative power. If relicensed with no changes from the current operation, the project would produce power annually for $233.2 million, or $76.40/MWh, less than the cost of alternative power.

As combined, the Coosa River project includes the following developments: 87.75-MW Weiss, 72.9-MW Neely Henry, 128.25-MW Logan Martin, 177-MW Lay, 225-MW Bouldin, 170-MW Mitchell, and 100-MW Jordan.

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