Guide hopes to encourage small hydro growth in Pennsylvania

A new guide released earlier this month by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council aims to spur low-impact hydropower growth within the state.

The guide, called the “Hydroelectric Permitting Manual for Pennsylvania“, was created based on feedback from the 2011 PA Hydropower Summit and other developer interactions that indicated the complexity of the state’s permitting process significantly increases the cost and development period for projects.

Specifically, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) said the guide was created with the following goals:

  • Facilitating greater development of economically- and environmentally-feasible projects;
  • Outlining specific steps required for permitting;
  • Identifying appropriate contacts;
  • Clarifying the order of steps; and
  • Improving the quality and completeness of applications submitted to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

As noted by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), however, the existing permitting procedure particularly discourages the development of small, low-impact hydroelectric facilities that would use existing infrastructure.

“In addition to the renewable energy benefits of hydroelectricity are the potential co-benefits to the benefits to the entities that own them and the communities in which they are located,” PEC said. “For example, a municipally-owned project has the potential to reduce its energy costs and/or generate revenue from excess electricity sold to the grid, freeing up funds for services like road maintenance, park improvements, and street lighting in Pennsylvania’s often cast-strapped municipalities.”

The state announced a new grant a loan program designed to encourage the deployment of renewable generating technologies — including hydropower — in June.

For more small hydropower news, visit here.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for

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