News: Hydropower

Reclamation to add third hydro turbine to Idaho’s Black Canyon Dam

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will add a third generating unit to the 10-MW Black Canyon Diversion Dam, potentially increasing the hydropower plant’s output capacity to 22.5 MW.


Reclamation said the additional generating unit will “take advantage of water that typically would go over the dam”, while also giving operation flexibility when one of the existing units is shut down for maintenance.


The project is expected to cost about US$53 million and will be funded by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).


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Kokanee won’t run Lake Pend Oreille dam level

By Rich Landers
Spokesman Review

Kokanee no longer pack enough influence to keep the U.S. Corps of Engineers from fluctuating water levels at Lake Pend Oreille during winter.

Since 1996, the lake level behind Albeni Falls Dam has generally – not always – been kept above elevation 2,055 feet to avoid dewatering the eggs kokanee deposit in shoreline gravels until the fish hatch and can swim away.

But despite years of research, the Idaho Fish and Game Department has not been able to positively show that maintaining higher winter levels results in better production from wild kokanee eggs, said Jim Fredericks, department regional fisheries manager.

That means the lake levels are likely to fluctuate between elevations of 2,055 and the minimum level of 2,051 feet this winter depending on weather and power demands. Read more

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Avista strikes deal to acquire electric utility in Alaska

By Becky Kramer
Spokesman Review

Avista Corp. is moving into the Alaska market through the planned purchase of an electric utility serving the Juneau area.

In a deal announced Monday, Avista will acquire Alaska Electric Light and Power’s parent company through a $170 million stock transaction. The sale is expected to close by July 1, subject to regulatory approvals.

“It gives us a small utility in Juneau” whose power generation is nearly 100 percent renewable, said Jessie Wuerst, an Avista spokesman. Read more

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PUD declares emergency for dam repairs

By Christine Pratt
Wenatchee World

WENATCHEE — The Chelan County PUD’s top-priority repair has the powerhouse floor of Rocky Reach Dam looking something like a highly specialized yard sale.

Turbine blades, bronze bushings the size of ottomans, boxes filled with jumbo-sized nuts and bolts and other, far larger dam components with names that make sense only to engineers and hydromechanics are spread out for inspection.

Off to the side, a stout, pipe-like stainless steel rod some 30 inches in diameter and 12 feet long lies on its side displaying a hairline crack that has halted four of the dam’s 11 generators, cut the PUD’s generating capacity by a quarter, and set in motion an all-hands-on-deck effort to get the units spinning again.

“This is the most significant equipment problem we’ve seen,” Dan Garrison, the PUD’s hydro operation director, said Thursday from the powerhouse floor. Read more

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Small hydroelectric dams bring clean power to utilities

By Jody Lawrence-Turner
Spokesman Review

Glenn Phillips is a water-power cowboy.

Faded, discolored pictures depict the Northport, Wash., man’s tale of building one of the first privately owned and operated miniature hydroelectric power plants.

They show him digging in a ravine. One shows him stringing cable for a tram that hauled materials. More chronicle how he built a power house at the bottom of a 140-foot waterfall.

Now 82 years old, Phillips displays each photo in hands weathered by hard work as his family harnessed nature.

“I knew there had to be an easier way to make a living than logging and raising cattle,” said Phillips, flashing a surly grin.

The Northwest is rich with water-generated electricity; big, wild rivers have been tamed by some of the world’s mightiest dams.

And yet the region is home to an impressive array of small projects, too. Some can fetch their owners $20,000 a month.

Washington, Idaho and Oregon are home to at least 95 of these miniature operations, according to the Foundation for Water and Energy Education, located in Spokane. There are hundreds more across the country. Together they form an industry worth tens of millions of dollars. Read more

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Report: Kootenai River changes impact sturgeon

By Rich Landers
Spokesman Review

FISHERIES — The eggs of endangered Kootenai River white sturgeon in Idaho and Montana are less likely to hatch in the river because of flow changes caused by Libby Dam and other human actions, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Associated Press reporter Nicholas K. Geranios says the report issued this week concluded that sturgeon eggs hatch best in places where rocks are washed clean of algae by river flow. Read more of the AP story.

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Bonneville/Energy Trust study delves into hydropower’s long reach

By Andy Giegerich
Sustainable Business Oregon

Two energy advocates have released a case study that examines how hydropower can occur away from the natural river system.

The Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Energy Trust of Oregon issued the study, authored by Hood River firm Farmers Conservation Alliance, which examines the cumulative effects of small-scale hydropower generation by two irrigation districts on the Hood River watershed over the past 30 years.

The study found “a measured positive impact on fish” from projects in the Hood River watershed, thanks to “the generation of nearly $90 million in revenue that funded infrastructure improvements leading to increased summer stream flows, installation of fish screens, removal of passage barriers and increased collaboration within the watershed community.” Read more

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Congress passes two hydropower bills during a summer of gridlock

By Jordan Collins
Mintz Levin

The 113th Congress, which is on track to pass fewer bills than any recent Congress, did pass two hydropower bills that were signed by President Obama on August 9, 2013. The two bills, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 (“HERA”) and the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act (“Reclamation Act”), will expand the federal government’s authority to develop hydropower on existing water resources and streamline the permitting process for new, small hydropower projects.

Although in the past four years Congress has extended tax credits for renewable projects, notably one for wind energy, this is the first significant piece of energy legislation since 2009. The bills do not make major changes to the hydropower permitting, licensing and development process, but rather take small steps to speed up the production of hydropower in the U.S.

Both HERA and the Reclamation Act Amendment passed the House and Senate with overwhelming majorities. Read more

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Small Hydro Legislation Signed By President Obama

By Staff

Last week, President Obama had a rare moment where he signed legislation passed by both houses in Congress – two bills make it easier to develop small hydropower in the US.

They streamline the process for generating more energy from existing dams, canals and other structures – no new construction required.

The bills are the first significant piece of energy legislation to come out of Congress since the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will further diversify US energy sources.  Read more

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What if everyone plugs in their cars at once?

By Sandi Doughton
Seattle Times

RICHLAND — Electric cars account for fewer than 0.05 percent of passenger vehicles in the United States today, but Michael Kintner-Meyer envisions a future where plug-ins rule the roads.

The proliferation of electric cars will bring benefits — like lower tailpipe emissions — ­but could also create unique headaches, says Kintner-Mayer, who leads a project at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to improve the vehicles and tackle the problems.

Now, he and his colleagues have crafted a solution to the scenario that gives power-grid operators nightmares: The prospect that millions of Americans will get home from work and plug in their cars at the same time.

“It would create havoc,” said Kintner-Meyer. “You could have the lights go out. You could have rolling brownouts.” Read more

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