Hydro Currents

FERC issues relicense for 82.3-MW Toledo Bend project

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has relicensed the Toledo Bend hydro project on the Sabine River, including a new 1.3-MW minimum flow unit, for total installed capacity of 82.3 MW.

FERC staff http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2014/01/ferc-final-eis-backs-relicensing-82-3-mw-toledo-bend-hydro-project.html issued a final environmental impact statement in January recommending relicensing of the project on the Texas and Louisiana border. The Sabine River Authority of Texas and the Sabine River Authority, State of Louisiana, are joint licensees.

The authorities, which filed to relicense the project in 2011, proposed to implement provisions of settlement agreements with the U.S. Forest Service on recreation, shoreline erosion, and invasive species and with other stakeholders on aquatic issues. They also proposed to construct a 1.3-MW horizontal Francis minimum flow unit in a second powerhouse downstream of the spillway.

FERC relicensed the project Aug. 29 with terms based on the application, plus the settlement agreements and additional mandatory conditions and FERC staff modifications. If the project were relicensed with no changes, power would cost about $20.90/MWh less than the cost of alternative power. Under the authorities’ proposal, power would cost $2.93/MWh less than alternative. Under the FERC staff-endorsed alternative, power would cost $2.63/MWh less.

Record rainfall strains infrastructure in American southwest

Rains brought by Hurricane Norbert caused record flooding in the southwestern U.S. in early September, straining dams in Arizona and Nevada, sources report. Norbert dumped more than 6 inches of rain in areas near Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas and other major metropolitan areas, causing flash floods of up to 15 feet in some areas and killing several people.

Officials from the Clark County Regional Flood Control District in Nevada said a dam on the Muddy River near the Moapa River Reservation, about 45 miles northeast of Las Vegas, was particularly close to being overtopped. Flooding near Moapa washed away significant portions of Interstate 15 and other roads, causing a 50-mile closure that was expected to last a minimum of several days, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation.

Meanwhile, officials with southwest Arizona’s Maricopa County Flood Control District said its 140 flood-control structures and 22 dams were “operating well.” “That being said, after this is over we need to re-look at those structures and look at other areas of need,” chief engineer Bill Wiley said.

Montana PSC approves PPL sale of 11 plants to NorthWestern Energy

The Montana Public Service Commission has approved PPL Montana’s sale of 11 plants totaling 663 MW to NorthWestern Energy.

PPL Montana LLC, a subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based PPL Corp., announced the $900 million deal http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2013/09/ppl-corporation-sells-11-hydropower-projects-to-northwestern.html in September 2013, saying it was subject to pending approvals by the PSC, Federal Trade Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FTC granted Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust approval http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2014/05/northwestern-hydropower-projects-acquisition-proposal-clears-ftc.html in May. FERC still must act on the agreement.

NorthWestern Energy acquired the original hydro project owner, Montana Power, in 2000, at which time the hydro projects were sold to PPL Corp. NorthWestern has said returning the projects to state-regulated utility control allows them to serve Montana customers at prices based on the cost of providing power rather than prices set by the western power market.

Included in the sale are the http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/hr/print/volume-31/issue-06/article/regulatory-issues-understanding-riverbed-issues-associated-with-dams.html Missouri-Madison project comprising the 19-MW Hauser, 48-MW Holter, 21-MW Black Eagle, http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2013/07/ppl-montana-celebrates-completion-of-60-mw-rainbow-hydropower-plant.html 60-MW Rainbow, http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2010/01/ferc-certifies-168.html 69-MW Cochrane, 60-MW Ryan and 48-MW Morony plants on the Missouri River and the 8-MW Madison plant and http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2008/09/ppl-montana-plans-permanent-fix-to-hebgen-dam-flow-control-failure.html Hebgen Dam on the Madison River; http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/hr/print/volume-32/issue-7/departments/sticky-wickets-repairing-failed-stator-core-bolts-at-thompson-falls.html 94-MW Thompson Falls on the Clark Fork River; http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2007/12/ferc-issues-first-license-using-integrated-licensing-process.html 12-MW Mystic Lake on West Rosebud Creek; and http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2007/12/ferc-certifies-18825-mw-kerr-18-mw-phoenix-for-production-tax-credits.html 194-MW Kerr on the Flathead River.

Obama nominates regulator Honorable to FERC

U.S. President Barack Obama has nominated Arkansas utility regulator Colette Honorable to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to succeed Commissioner John Norris, who announced his resignation Aug. 7. Norris, a Democrat whose term expires in 2017, said he was taking a post with the U.S. Agriculture Department in Italy.

However, Honorable’s Senate confirmation hearing is on hold due to the death of her husband Sept. 7. Rickey Earl Honorable, an Arkansas banker, died unexpectedly.

Honorable, a Democrat, is chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission and president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. She previously served as executive director of the Arkansas Workforce Investment Board, chief of staff to then-Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe, and assistant attorney general under then-Attorney General Mark Pryor. Honorable also was assistant city attorney in North Little Rock, an assistant public defender, a law clerk for the Arkansas Court of Appeals and a staff lawyer for the Center for Arkansas Legal Services.

“There is no one more qualified for this position than Colette Honorable, and I strongly support her nomination,” said Pryor, now a U.S. senator. “Colette is a long-time advocate for clean energy and an avid supporter of consumer protection.”

Norris’ resignation came on the heels of Obama’s formal appointment of Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to be FERC chairman and Obama’s designation of his first choice, newly confirmed Commissioner Norman C. Bay, http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2014/08/obama-names-lafleur-ferc-chairman-designates-bay-for-2015.html to become chairman effective April 15, 2015.

Blast removes last hydro project on Washington’s Elwha River

A final explosion Aug. 26 removed the remains of 12-MW Glines Canyon Dam, fully opening the Elwha River to salmon passage in Washington’s Olympic National Park.

Congress passed the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act in 1992, requiring the Secretary of Interior to restore the Elwha River ecosystem and native anadromous fisheries. The Interior Department determined that only the removal of the 12-MW Elwha and Glines Canyon dams would accomplish full restoration.

In September 2010, the National Park Service http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2010/09/u-s–awards-dam-removal.html awarded a $26.9 million contract to Montana-based Barnard Construction Co. Inc. to remove the two dams. The removal also is intended to protect and http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2011/12/washington-tribe-advances.html restore treaty fishing rights for affected Indian tribes. Removal, to cost $40 million to $60 million, http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/hr/print/volume-31/issue-3/article/exploring-the-reasons-behind-dam-removal.html began in 2011.

Restoration of the Elwha River opens more than 70 miles of river to salmon and steelhead habitat and frees about 18 million cubic yards of captured rock, gravel, sand and sediment. Sediment http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/hr/print/volume-31/issue-07/articles/sediment-strategies-choosing-a-sediment-management-option-for-dam-removal.html is expected to accumulate in areas that have eroded since the dams were built, increasing river elevations in some areas an average of 2 feet.

IRS clarifies beginning of construction to qualify for PTC

The Internal Revenue Service in the U.S. has issued a notice helping clarify what is the beginning of construction in order for a renewable energy project to qualify for production tax credits or investment tax credits. In 2013, Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which extended PTCs for an additional year to renewable energy projects. It also made eligible those projects that begin construction by Jan. 1, 2014.

To qualify, developers may either begin physical construction “of a significant nature,” called the physical work test, or spend at least 5% of the total costs of the eligible project, called the 5% safe harbor. The developer also must make continuous progress toward completion of the project.

In its http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-14-46.pdf Notice 2014-46 issued in August, the IRS clarified how much physical work is required to qualify under the physical work test. It said there is no set minimum required as long as the work relates to items that are integral to the activity performed by the qualifying facility.

The notice also clarifies that a project may change owners without losing its eligibility assuming the project has passed the physical work test or the 5% safe harbor. It says a developer that intended to develop a project at a certain site may relocate the project to a new site and still qualify.

The notice modifies the 5% safe harbor for projects that can be separated into individual facilities, such as a marine hydrokinetic array with multiple turbines. If the amount the developer spends before Jan. 1, 2014, is less than 5% but at least 3% of the project cost, tax credits may be obtained for some, but not all, of the facilities comprising the project. The taxpayer may claim credits on any number of individual facilities as long as the total aggregate cost of the facilities placed in service is not greater than 20 times the amount the developer paid before Jan. 1, 2014.

EIS advances transmission to deliver Quebec hydropower to New York

The U.S. Department of Energy has issued a final environmental impact statement (EIS) endorsing the construction and operation of a 1,000-MW transmission line to carry Quebec hydropower to New York City. The line would carry hydropower and some wind power from http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/hr/print/volume-32/issue-10/cover-story/northern-exposure-canadian-hydro-in-the-spotlight.html Canada’s Quebec Province, across the border at Champlain, N.Y., to Astoria, Queens.

The $2 billion project — owned by Champlain Hudson Power Express and CHPA Properties — involves the construction and operation of the Champlain Hudson Power Express, consisting of two wires stretched mostly underwater beneath Lake Champlain and the Hudson, Harlem and East rivers. DOE’s EIS addresses the 336-mile line’s route in the U.S., while Quebec and Canadian agencies are reviewing environmental effects in that country.

The matter now goes to DOE officials. Should they approve the project, the EIS also is intended to help them determine possible mitigation measures and other conditions of the permit.

FERC licenses 400-MW Iowa Hill pumped storage

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has authorized construction of the 400-MW Iowa Hill pumped-storage plant as part of relicensing California’s 637.3-MW Upper American River project.

Relicensing the Upper American River Project to Sacramento Municipal Utility District was the major licensing activity in FERC’s Energy Infrastructure Update for July 2014. FERC followed that up Aug. 20 by relicensing a project to Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 7-MW Chili Bar. SMUD built Chili Bar for PG&E to compensate for loss of its Project No. 78, which was inundated when SMUD built Slab Creek Dam.

Iowa Hill is to be an off-stream plant that pumps water from the existing Slab Creek Reservoir to the new Iowa Hill Reservoir. The powerhouse will contain three 133-MW pump-turbines.

As relicensed, the Upper American River Project would generate 2,673,000 MWh at $38.11 per MWh less than the cost of alternative power. Chili Bar would generate 31,291 MWh at $15.38/MWh less than the cost of alternative power.

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