Hydro Currents

Conventional, marine sectors could receive historic funding from new federal package

A $37.5 billion energy and water development package approved by the U.S. Senate in mid-May could provide record levels of funding for segments of the hydro sector. The appropriations bill, passed by a 90-8 vote, would provide allocations for the U.S. Department of Energy, Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Specific to hydropower are:

  • $25 million for conventional hydro and pumped storage, including up to $3.9 million for the purposes of Section 242 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005;
  • $3 million for the evaluation of pumped storage at two sites to be determined by the Secretary of Energy, while building off DOE’s pumped-storage work begun in the current fiscal year;
  • $59 million for marine and hydrokinetic technology research, development and deployment;
  • $25 million to fund competition in ocean, river and tidal energy, with the goal of increasing efficiency, reliability and survivability;
  • $35 million to construct a wave energy test facility; and
  • $4 million to support collaborations between universities and the national laboratories to support marine energy development, as well as coordination with the U.S. Navy on demonstrations.

FERC issues first license under new two-year process

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has awarded a license for the 5-MW Kentucky Lock and Dam 11 project, potentially opening the door for expedited approval as dictated by the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013. FERC selected the proposal in August 2014 as a pilot project to test a two-year licensing process mandated by the legislation. Rye Development, through FFP New Hydro LLC, filed a license application with FERC this past May.

“The implementation of this expedited process can help set the stage for increased development of new hydropower on existing dams throughout Kentucky and the United States,” Rye Development Chief Executive Officer Ramya Swaminathan said. “We are excited that we were able to assist FERC in building and testing the new licensing framework.”

FERC established minimum criteria for the two-year process:

  • Project must cause little or no change to existing surface and groundwater flows and uses and must not adversely affect federally listed threatened and endangered species;
  • If the project is to be located at or to use a federal dam, the request to use the two-year process must include a letter from the dam owner saying the plan is feasible;
  • If the project would use any public park, recreation area or wildlife refuge, the request must include a letter from the managing entity giving its approval to use the site; and
  • For closed-loop pumped storage, the project must not be continuously connected to a naturally flowing water feature.

The plant, at the Kentucky River Authority’s Lock and Dam 11 on the Kentucky River, is expected to cost $12 million and create up to 150 jobs during construction, with completion anticipated in 2018.

Pacific Northwest BiOp once again rejected by court

The U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon ruled on May 4 that the 2014 Columbia Basin salmon biological opinion violates the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, and declared it invalid.

Judge Michael H. Simon ordered a new BiOp to be filed with the court no later than March 1, 2018. This marks five times in a row federal courts have ruled Columbia Basin salmon plans illegal.

ESA requires that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration, and U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation operate the 31 dams and hydropower projects in the Columbia River Basin in a way that does not jeopardize the continued existence of endangered fish species. There are 13 species or populations of Columbia or Snake river salmonids that are either endangered or threatened, according to the judge’s order.

“The parties and the Court acknowledge that there is significant benefit to the listed species from habitat improvement. The flaws in the 2014 BiOp with respect to habitat improvement projects are not that NOAA Fisheries relied on habitat mitigation efforts to avoid jeopardy, but that some of the habitat projects relied on are not reasonably certain to occur and that NOAA Fisheries relied on habitat mitigation projects achieving the exact amount of extremely uncertain survival benefits required to avoid jeopardy,” Simon concluded.

Andritz sues Nalcor Energy subsidiary over 824-MW Muskrat Falls plant

Andritz Hydro Canada Inc. has sued Muskrat Falls Corp., saying it is being forced to complete its work at 824-MW Muskrat Falls on a compressed timeline.

Andritz is alleging a breach of contract, but “It is not uncommon in the course of business in large construction contract execution for disputes to arise between parties,” according to Gilbert Bennett, vice president of the Lower Churchill Project. “Andritz Hydro Canada Inc. (Andritz) has submitted a Statement of Claim in response to a disagreement … regarding a performance issue as it relates to their work on the Lower Churchill Project. Muskrat Falls Corporation stands by the concerns it has raised and denies the allegations. Muskrat Falls Corporation and Andritz are currently working to resolve these issues.”

Andritz alleges that delays by contractor Astaldi contributed to project milestones being pushed back, news sources report. Andritz said it needed Astaldi to complete concrete foundations and other work before it could begin installing roller gates, stoplogs and a tower for the mechanical drives for five spillway bays, as well as 12 trashracks, intake gates, mechanical drives and stoplogs for the powerhouse. Andritz gained site access in November 2015 and determined the civil works were incomplete.

Andritz says the contract allowed a year to work on the gates but Muskrat Falls Corp. has shortened that by four or five months. Andritz is to receive $3.4 million to cover the cost of this accelerated schedule. Andritz also says Muskrat Falls Corp. issued a notice of default and threatened to call in a $20.5 million letter of credit Andritz provided when it accepted the work. Andritz is asking a judge to declare the new schedule and price of work invalid and stop any action regarding the letter of credit, CBC says.

The case will be heard at the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in June.

HRF adds 2016 researchers, names new boards

The Hydro Research Foundation has selected four students for its 2016 class of researchers. The researchers, and their areas of focus, are:

  • Claire Beveridge – University of Washington, Improved Hydrologic and Sedimentation Modeling for Hydropower Systems: A Case Study on the Elwha River Dams
  • Philip Ebben – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Renewable Energy Pairing for Sustained Grid Stability
  • Elliott Jackson – Oregon State University, A Cost Benefit Analysis and Hardware Validation of Synchronous and Variable Speed Hydropower Systems for New Stream Reach Projects
  • Bianca Viggiano – Portland State University, Assessing and Controlling Instabilities in a Two-Phase Vortex Column via Proper Orthogonal Decomposition

These one-year awards allow the students to conduct focused research related to conventional and pumped-storage hydropower, HRF says. The awards are made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as industry partners.

In addition, a new board of directors and advisory board have been announced:

  • Chairman Leslie Eden, HCI Partners
  • Vice Chairman Kenneth Odom, Southern Company
  • Treasurer Steve Wenke, Avista Utilities
  • Secretary Wendy Bley, TRC Solutions
  • Legal Counsel Janet Audunson, National Grid
  • Past President Gregg Carrington, Chelan County PUD

Other board members are: Steve Amaral, Alden Laboratories; Steve Brown, HDR; Tim Brush, Normandeau Associations; Paul Jacobson, EPRI; Kenneth Kemp, Micro Renewable Solutions; Mark Killgore, American Society of Civil Engineers; Kimber Long, Exelon Corp.; Patrick McCarty, Tacoma Power; Gerry Russell, Weir American Hydro; and Michael Sale, Low Impact Hydro Institute.

Advisory board members are: Norm Bishop, Knight Piesold; John Esler, Portland General Electric; John Gangemi, ERM; Kirby Gilbert, MWH; Lisa Larson, HDR; Geoff Rabone, Yuba County Water Agency; Alan Roth, Weir American Hydro; Sue Nee Tan, PG&E; Carl Vansant, HCI Partners; Lewis Wardle, Idaho Power; and Paul Williams, Kleinschmidt Associates.

Testimony given on dissatisfaction with FERC relicensing

Two leaders of U.S. west coast-based utilities that generate hydroelectric energy testified on Capitol Hill, intimating Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing requirements for hydro facilities are lengthy, frustrating and expensive.

On April 27, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans heard this testimony. The subcommittee conducted an oversight hearing titled, “Realizing the Potential of Hydropower as a Clean, Renewable and Domestic Energy Resource.”

Steve Boyd, director of the Turlock Irrigation District (TID) water resources and regulatory affairs based in Turlock, Calif., and Debbie Powell, senior director of power generation operations for San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric, testified.

Boyd cited 203-MW Don Pedro on the Tuolumne River as an example of a project that is taking a long time to receive FERC relicensing. During his testimony, Boyd said, “We’ve been at this for seven years.” TID and Modesto Irrigation District jointly operate the facility. Both districts began the renewal process in 2009, to date spending more than US$20 million. The project’s FERC license, issued in 1966, expired on April 30.

According to the subcommittee, “There are about 1,030 active, non-federal hydropower licenses [nation-wide] issued by the federal government. Over the next five years, 24% of all non-federal hydropower capacity will face relicensing.

PPA signed for 10.5-MW Clemina Creek in British Columbia

Sorgent.e Hydro Canada and BC Hydro have signed a 40-year standing offer program electricity purchase agreement for the 10.5-MW Clemina Creek project being developed in the North Thompson Valley.

This agreement was reached through Sorgent.e Hydro Canada subsidiary Clemina Hydro Power. Signing of this agreement concludes the planning stage of the project and kicks off pre-construction activities, Sorgent.e Hydro Canada says.

Sorgent.e Hydro Canada is part of Italian group Sorgent.e Holding, with more than 20 renewable plants in Europe and South America.

As previously reported, Mavel has delivered equipment for the Clemina Creek project, which will use a vertical Pelton turbine with five jets.

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