PG&E announces it will not relicense 26.4-MW DeSabla-Centerville hydro facility

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has announced it will withdraw its application for a new Federal Energy Regulatory Commission operating license for its 26.4-MW DeSabla-Centerville hydro facility.

PG&E says it expects to withdraw the application in mid-February and request FERC initiate its “orphan project” process. This would allow for other qualified entities to apply for a license to operate the facility in the future, which PG&E says it supports.

“PG&E recognizes the importance of the DeSabla-Centerville facility to the local communities, including its role in supporting environmental resources, meeting the needs of farms and other water users, and providing public recreation,” says Debbie Powell, senior director of power generation operations at PG&E. “We will continue to focus on the safe and environmentally friendly operation of the facility under existing license conditions as FERC moves forward with its process.”

PG&E says the DeSabla-Centerville facility, on Butte Creek in California, is no longer economically viable for its electric customers, due to:

  • Renewable energy markets becoming increasingly more competitive
  • Customer demand from PG&E declining due to customer-owned solar and community choice aggregation programs
  • Increasingly costly regulatory requirements to operate the hydroelectric facility.

The utility says, “Other entities may be able to generate power more economically at DeSabla-Centerville due to potential differences in financing mechanisms and business models.”

A PG&E press release says any new owner would be required to obtain a FERC license and be bound by license condition requirements, including protections for fisheries, notably the salmon population in Butte Creek. Environmental and fishing groups contend that low stream flows, warm water temperatures and pathogenic outbreaks on Butte Creek have killed thousands of salmon in summer and early fall before they have a chance to spawn. As previously reported, FERC, NOAA Fisheries and PG&E began talks about protecting spring-run chinook at this project in 2002 as part of relicensing efforts.

DeSabla-Centerville includes the DeSabla, Toadtown and Centerville powerhouses, as well as the DeSabla, Philbrook and Round Valley reservoirs and canals and flumes in the foothills and mountains of Butte County. The facilities were initially developed in the early 20th century and later acquired by PG&E.

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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