Washington, Maine projects seek FERC certification for tax credits

Hydroelectric project operators in Washington and Maine have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to certify incremental generation at their projects for renewable energy production tax credits or for a tax grant in lieu of the PTC.

Certification sought for projects on Snoqualmie, South Fork

Hydro operators in Washington asked FERC to certify incremental generation at their projects on the Snolqualmie and South Fork Snoqualmie rivers.

Puget Sound Energy requested PTC certification based on $250 million in improvements to the Snoqualmie Falls hydroelectric project (No. 2493), adding 10 MW to bring the historic Snoqualmie River facility to 54.4 MW.

Instead of seeking certification for a production tax credit, PSE asked FERC for a tax grant in lieu of the PTC, as allowed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. A request for FERC certification is a prerequisite for issuance of a tax grant by the Treasury Department. PSE previously filed a similar application with FERC for certification of a new 30-MW powerhouse at its 170.03-MW Baker River hydroelectric project (No. 2150) on the Baker River in Washington.

PSE began construction in April to replace a generator in Snoqualmie Falls Plant 2 and to replace a generator and retrofit four 1898-vintage generators in Plant 1, increasing generating capacity by 10 MW without using additional water. The utility said existing baseline generation of the plant is 238,070 MWh per year. It said modeling indicated the improvements would increase annual generation to 260,100 MWh, an increase of 22,030 MWh or 9.3 percent.

Meanwhile, Twin Falls Hydro Associates L.P. asked FERC to certify incremental generation based on its plan to install an automatic trash rake system to its 24-MW Twin Falls project (No. 4885) on the South Fork Snoqualmie River. The hydro operator said debris loading occurs at the project continuously, reducing flows and generation. It added that generation also is reduced during manual removal of debris from project trashracks.

Twin Falls Hydro said the project’s existing baseline generation is 69,339 MWh. It said modeling of generation after trash rake installation, expected by April 2011, shows annual generation of 70,596 MWh, an increase of 1,256 MWh or 1.81 percent.

Maine project seeks certification for inflatable flashboard system

Southern New Hampshire Hydroelectric seeks FERC certification of incremental generation resulting from the addition of an inflatable flashboard system at its 820-kW Swan Falls project (No. 11365) on Maine’s Saco River.

Consultant Kleinschmidt Associates filed the request on behalf of SNHH, saying prior to installation of the inflatable system, wooden flashboards would trip within a foot of overtopping, reducing headpond level 5.8 feet and generation accordingly. It said it took a minimum of 30 days to replace the flashboards once high flows subsided.

Kleinschmidt said installation of the 260-foot-long inflatable flashboard system in 2007 has allowed SNHH to realize incremental production from increased plant efficiency.

Kleinschmidt said the project’s existing baseline generation is 2,469 MWh. It said modeling of generation after inflatable flashboard installation shows annual generation of 3,605 MWh, an increase of 1,136 MWh or 46 percent.

FERC has certified incremental generation of several dozen hydro projects since August 2005. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 amended the Internal Revenue Code to apply a production tax credit to incremental production gains from efficiency improvements or capacity additions to existing hydropower facilities placed in service after Aug. 8, 2005, and before Jan. 1, 2014. The Internal Revenue Service determines whether to grant the credits after FERC certifies hydropower production.

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