Hydro Currents

U.S. Supreme Court freezes EPA’s Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary freeze to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan Feb. 9.

The freeze, decided by a 5-4 majority, is a one-page order that prohibits the CPP from being enforced before it is reviewed by federal appeals courts. The move is an unprecedented one for the Supreme Court, which had never previously granted a request for a regulatory halt before the lower court review process, and comes just weeks after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied requests for a stay on the plan.

Just days later, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away, raising a number of questions regarding the future of the CPP. Scalia sided with the majority on this vote. The fate of the CPP could now lie in the hands of the appeals court.

EPA’s program has been a hot-button issue since it was unveiled by President Barack Obama in August. Opponents convinced the Supreme Court to issue its temporary halt by convincing justices there was a “fair prospect” it might ultimately stop the rule regardless, and that denying said stay might cause irreparable harm to states impacted most adversely.

The lower federal court will begin hearing oral arguments against the CPP on June 2. Any decision could then be appealed to the Supreme Court.

400-MW Iowa Hill pumped-storage project canceled in California

The board of directors at Sacramento Municipal Utility District has decided not to proceed with construction of the 400-MW Iowa Hill pumped-storage project based on cost and financial risks.

The project was to be built at Slab Creek Reservoir in El Dorado County and involve construction of a new Iowa Hill Reservoir, with a powerhouse containing three 133-MW pump-turbine units.

Cost estimates were $1.45 billion. “An investment that size would significantly limit the choices SMUD has with regard to future distributed generation technologies and significantly constrains SMUD’s future capital investments,” a press release says. In March 2007, estimates to build this project were $520 million.

In 2015, the utility re-evaluated the need for the energy storage that would have been provided by the Iowa Hill project and determined that less than half of the total capacity would be needed before 2030. SMUD concluded the project was not financially feasible and “with recent advances in other energy storage technologies, it is likely there will be more economical alternatives for satisfying Sacramento’s energy storage needs in the long term.”

FERC licenses 10 hydro projects in December

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued 10 licenses for conventional hydro projects, representing a total of 52.6 MW, in December. This is the bulk of the activity in 2015, when a total of 15 conventional hydro licenses were issued for a total of 70.5 MW.

FERC said in an infrastructure report for December 2015, issued in February, that projects licensed are:

  • 5.1-MW Arkabutla Lake, Coldwater River, Mississippi, FFP Missouri 2 LLC
  • 3-MW Beverly Lock and Dam, Muskingum River, Ohio, Clean River Power MR-3 LLC
  • 4.6-MW Enid Lake, Yocona River, Mississippi, FFP Missouri 2 LLC
  • 9-MW Grenada Lake, Yalobusha River, Mississippi, FFP Missouri 2 LLC
  • 2.64-MW Heidelberg, Kentucky River, Kentucky, Lock 14 Hydro Partners LLC
  • 3-MW Malta/McConnelsville Lock and Dam, Muskingum River, Ohio, Clean River Power MR-5 LLC
  • 3-MW Philo Lock and Dam, Muskingum River, Ohio, Clean River Power MR-7 LLC
  • 2.64-MW Ravenna, Kentucky River, Kentucky, Lock 12 Hydro Partners LLC
  • 4-MW Rokeby Lock and Dam, Muskingum River, Ohio, Clean River Power MR-6 LLC
  • 14.6-MW Sardis Lake, Little Tallahatchie River, Mississippi, FFP Missouri 2 LLC

Partnership to support hydro, wind in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Clean Electricity Partnership has been created to advocate for affordable hydropower, onshore wind and other clean energy resources. The coalition will focus on the environmental and economic benefits of clean electricity, including price stability for ratepayers.

“The partnership represents a diverse group of regional wind, hydro and transmission companies,” according to the website. It will work with business, consumer, environmental and governmental stakeholders to support adoption of laws that enable long-term access to clean electricity. Massachusetts has a mandate to reduce electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions by about 50% by 2050.

Coalition partners are Brookfield, Emera, Hydro-Quebec, Nalcor Energy, Energie NB Power, SunEdison and TDI New England.

“Without prompt legislative action, Massachusetts’ electricity customers could miss an excellent opportunity to secure long-term supplies of affordable, clean and reliable energy,” says Donald Jessome, chief executive officer of TDI.

The partnership says pending closure of the Pilgrim Power Plant leads to an urgent need for clean energy, as this nuclear facility provides 84% of the state’s clean electricity generation.

Rentricity works on micro hydro in Colorado, Utah

Rentricity Inc. reports it has begun work on installation of its first micro-hydro in-pipe projects, in Colorado and Utah.

The projects use the Rentricity SEMS (Sustainable Energy and Monitoring Systems) technology, which captures excess pressure and flow in gravity-fed water distribution pipelines, converting it into electricity for the grid or use onsite. The recently launched plug-and-play SEMS is for applications in the 5 kW to 30 kW range.

The two sites are located within the Town of Grand Lake in Colorado and Ferron in Utah. The Town of Grand Lake will install a 6.5-kW system at the inlet of its facility and supply the power to the local grid. Castle Valley Special Service District will install a 6-kW system at the inlet of its new Ferron Water Treatment Plant. This system will be installed “behind the meter,” allowing the plant to receive and use all the power generated.

The company has a similar technology, called Flow-to-Wire, that is designed for 30 kW to 350 kW or greater applications.

EPA excludes hydropower from CPP incentive program

The Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP), established as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (see page 4), is drawing criticism from the hydropower sector for its exclusion of hydro-related benefits. The plan “is designed to provide additional incentives for early investments in zero-emitting wind or solar generation, and energy efficiency in low-income communities.”

A letter from the National Hydropower Association, submitted to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy before the comments deadline, reflects what many in the hydropower industry perceive as unreasonably skewed toward the wind and solar sectors. “Although NHA supports the CEIP in concept, we do not support the current design or eligibility requirements as it arbitrarily chooses winners and losers among renewable energy technologies in overcoming the challenges related to climate change,” NHA wrote. “… the CEIP should be modified to include hydropower, in all its forms, as an eligible renewable technology.”

The incentive program and CPP are components of EPA’s ambitious goal of reducing U.S. carbon emissions by more than 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. EPA justifies excluding hydropower from the CEIP with three arguments, NHA said: the timeframe related to developing various renewable energy projects; providing incentives to execute on planned investments in order to avoid shifting investments toward natural gas; and urgency in meeting the challenges of climate change.

Endangered species lawsuit filed at 26-MW Electron hydro

Two conservation groups filed a lawsuit Jan. 12 against the owners of the 26-MW Electron hydro project, saying Puget Sound chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout are being killed.

The project, at the base of Mount Rainier in Washington State, diverts water from the Puyallup River into a 10-mile-long wooden flume that empties into the Electron reservoir and travels down one of four penstocks to the powerhouse.

The lawsuit – American Whitewater, American Rivers, Inc. vs. Electron Hydro LLC, Tollhouse Energy Company, Thom A. Fischer – alleges the owner is operating the project but not complying with the Endangered Species Act requirement to protect these species.

Relief requested includes: declaring that Electron has violated the ESA, ordering Electron to obtain immunity from take liability from the National Marine Fisheries Service and Fish and Wildlife Service, and ordering Electron to cease diverting water from the Puyallup River in the period before it obtains said take immunity.

Electron began operating in 1904, and the owner is in the midst of a multi-year modernization program designed to bring the facility back to full generating capability. Among the improvements being made are the addition of a fish screen at the intake, to enhance downstream migration.

Unit 1 begins commercial operation at 35-MW Willow Island

The first generating unit at American Municipal Power’s 35-MW Willow Island hydropower plant began commercial operation in January, the Ohio-based utility announced.

Unit 1, manufactured by Voith Hydro, is one of two 17.5-MW bulb-type turbines that will eventually serve AMP’s 79 member communities in a five-state region.

The project – located at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Willow Island Locks and Dam – is one of four being developed by AMP along the Ohio River. Together, the facilities will add more than 300 MW of capacity to the company’s generating fleet. AMP’s other Ohio River projects include 105-MW Meldahl, 84-MW Cannelton and 72-MW Smithland.

Flooding along the river has slowed progress at some of the plants, although AMP President and Chief Executive Officer Marc Gerken said units should continue to come on line through the spring. “Although the recent river flooding has caused individual unit testing delays at Cannelton, Willow Island and Meldahl, we are projecting without further delays that these eight turbines and generators will be in commercial operation by the end of March 2016,” Gerken said.

Nominate an influential woman in the hydropower industry

PennWell’s Women with Hydro Vision awards program, now in its third year, seeks to honor the most influential women in the hydro industry. To submit your nomination in one of ten categories, email elizabethi@pennwell.com. Awards will be given at a special luncheon Wednesday, July 27, at HydroVision International in Minneapolis, Minn.

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