FERC issues license for Monongahela Locks and Dam 4 project

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

U.S. hydropower regulators have issued an original license for a proposed 12-megawatt hydropower project, to be located at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Monongahela Locks and Dam 4 facility on the Monongahela River, in Pennsylvania.

On February 27, 2014, FFP New Hydro, LLC subsidiary Solia 4 Hydroelectric, LLC filed, pursuant to Part I of the Federal Power Act, an application for a license to construct, operate, and maintain the Monongahela Locks and Dam 4 Hydroelectric Project No. 13767.  The company is affiliated with US Renewables Group.

The project would be located at one of the nine existing lock and dam sites on the Monongahela River, which the Army Corps operates for commercial and recreational navigation.  If developed, new facilities for the project would include an intake channel, spill gates, a powerhouse housing two equally sized Kaplan turbine-generator units with a combined capacity of 12 MW, a tailrace channel, a substation, a transmission line, and an access road.  The project will operate in a run-of-release mode, using flows made available by the Corps that would normally be released through the Corps’ spillway gates

Under the Federal Power Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is charged with regulating and reviewing applications for most non-federal hydropower projects.  Because the project uses the water power or surplus water of a government dam, occupies federal land, and is located on the Monongahela River, which is a navigable waterway of the United States, the Commission concluded that the project is required to be licensed pursuant to section 23(b)(1) of the Federal Power Act.

On July 21, 2017, the Commission issued its Order Issuing Original License for the Monongahela Locks and Dam 4 project.  The license authorizes the installation of 12 MW of new, renewable energy capacity, while requiring a number of measures to protect water quality, fish, wildlife, recreation, and cultural resources at the project.  It bears a 50-year term, the maximum allowable for an original license under Section 6 of the Federal Power Act.

According to the order, as licensed with mandatory conditions and staff-recommended measures, the levelized annual cost of constructing and operating the project will be about $3,563,340, or $72.88/MWh.  Its expected average annual generation will be 48,894 MW. 

The Commission noted that the project as licensed is best adapted to a comprehensive plan for improving or developing the Monongahela River, "because: (1) issuance of an original license will serve to provide a beneficial and dependable source of electric energy; (2) the required environmental measures will protect and enhance fish and wildlife resources, water quality, recreation resources, and historic properties; and (3) the 12 MW of electric capacity will come from a renewable resource that does not contribute to atmospheric pollution."

Commercial building efficiency opportunities

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A report prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that the nation's commercial building sector has significant potential to save energy by improving control measures and eliminating common HVAC faults.

The May 2017 report, "Impacts of Commercial Building Controls on Energy Savings and Peak Load Reduction", notes that commercial buildings in the U.S. consume approximately 18 quadrillion British thermal units (quads) of primary energy annually.  While previous studies have suggested significant potential for energy savings by deploying sensors and controls, the lab says its report is the first to provide a comprehensive estimate of the national energy savings potential available by fixing building operational problems with efficiency measures.

Overall, after considering a variety of commercial building types and hypothetical sensitivity cases, the report estimated the annual building energy savings from energy efficiency measures to be 29%, and the "best estimate" of total primary energy savings to be 2.74 quads.  According to the lab's model, three building types -- secondary schools, standalone retail, and retail dealership -- each achieved more than 40% savings nationally.

Overall, the report concludes "that commercial building controls improvements are strategically important to meet and sustain reductions in national energy consumption."