FERC: Small conduit hydro project may utilize head from unrelated dam

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has declared a qualifying small conduit hydropower project may be excluded from FERC jurisdiction if it utilizes the hydropower potential of a dam as long as the dam is not integral to the small conduit project.

The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act, passed in 2013, removes entirely from FERC jurisdiction those new “qualifying conduit hydropower facilities” under 5 MW that are on water conduits. Prior to HREA, FERC could issue “conduit exemptions” from hydropower licensing to hydroelectric facilities under 15 MW (for non-municipalities) and 40 MW (for municipalities) using a man-made conduit operated primarily for non-hydroelectric purposes. While exempt from more stringent FERC hydro licensing, exempted projects are still subject to lesser FERC regulation.

FERC determined that projects seeking complete exclusion from FERC jurisdiction under HREA as “qualifying conduit hydropower facilities” must use a tunnel, canal, pipeline, aqueduct, flume, ditch, or similar manmade water conveyance that is operated for the distribution of water for agricultural, municipal, or industrial consumption and not primarily for the generation of electricity. Further, the power project must not exceed 5 MW and must use only the hydroelectric potential of a non-federally owned conduit.

Additionally, neither conduit projects operating under a FERC exemption nor qualifying conduit projects excluded from FERC jurisdiction may have a dam as an integral part.

In the current case, applicant Soldier Canyon Filter Plant requested a rehearing of a FERC staff ruling that denied qualifying conduit status to its proposed 100-kW Soldier Canyon Micro Hydro Facility (CD15-18) that would replace a pressure-reducing vault on the 35-inch Soldier Canyon Pipeline, which delivers water to the Soldier Canyon Filter Plant for treatment and distribution to water users.

FERC staff had rejected the application because the conduit draws water from a secondary outlet of Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins, Colo. Staff concluded the project would rely entirely upon the hydroelectric potential created by Horsetooth Dam rather than by the conduit.

In its rehearing request, Soldier Canyon contended that although the Federal Power Act excludes dams from qualifying conduit facilities, it does not require the exclusion of conduit projects that use hydroelectric potential that is in part created by a dam, provided that the conduit is non-federally owned.

“Soldier Canyon states that requiring a facility to use solely the hydroelectric potential of a conduit alone would restrict the application of this exemption to a very small number of projects, contrary to Congress’ intent,” FERC said June 18.

“We agree,” FERC said. “As noted above, in this key respect the statutory requirements are the same for qualifying conduit facilities (i.e., those excluded from licensing requirements of the FPA) and small conduit facilities (i.e., those eligible for an exemption authorization from the commission). The commission has administered the small conduit exemption program for over 35 years, and a review of the commission’s implementation of the provisions at issue here supports Soldier Canyon’s arguments.”

FERC also preliminarily ruled that the Soldier Canyon project meets the criteria for the qualifying conduit facility and said it would issue a notice to that effect for comment.

FERC advances other qualifying conduit projects

The commission recently issued a series of either preliminary or final orders finding small conduit projects to be qualifying conduit facilities that are eligible for exclusion from FERC jurisdiction.

Final approval was granted to:

  • Los Angeles County Public Works’ 215-kW M7W Pressure Reducing Station Hydroelectric project (CD15-23), Quartz Hill Water Treatment Plant, Palmdale, Calif.;
  • East Valley Water District’s 242-kW Plant 134 Hydroelectric project (CD15-22), Water Treatment Plant 134, Highland, Calif.;
  • North Gooding Main Hydro LLC’s 1.22-MW North Gooding Main Hydroelectric project (CD15-21), North Gooding Main Canal transporting agricultural water, Gooding, Idaho;
  • Nevada Irrigation District’s 1.44-MW Loma Rica Hydroelectric project (CD15-20), Banner-Cascade Pipeline System transporting agricultural and municipal water, Grass Valley, Calif.

FERC has granted preliminary approval to the following projects, which are subject to intervention and comment by interested parties before final approval is granted:

  • SPS of Oregon’s 13-kW SPS2 Hydro project (CD15-28), Westside Ditch transporting irrigation water, Wallowa, Ore.;
  • Mountain Village, Colo.’s 5-kW Double Cabins PRV Hydro project (CD15-27), municipal water supply pipeline, Mountain Village, Colo.;
  • Mountain Village, Colo.’s 15-kW San Joaquin PRV Hydro project (CD15-26), municipal water supply pipeline, Mountain Village, Colo.;
  • Adak, Alaska’s 1.7-kW Adak Water System project (CD15-25), municipal water treatment pipeline, Adak, Alaska;
  • Richmond Irrigation Co.’s 397-kW Richmond Hydroelectric project (CD15-24), Upper High Creek Pipeline transporting irrigation water, Richmond City, Utah.

FERC has created a web page under Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, http://www.ferc.gov/industries/hydropower/indus-act/efficiency-act.asp, providing guidance to developers on filing a notice of intent to build a qualifying conduit facility, an application for small hydropower exemption, and an application to amend preliminary permit terms.

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