Duke seeks to relicense 2 hydro units; some fret about water level

Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) is moving ahead with plans to relicense two hydroelectric plants in South Carolina which have a combined generating capacity of about 868 MW.

Both the Keowee and Jocassee hydro facilities in Pickens, County, .S.C., draw their water from the Keowee River, as does Duke’s Oconee nuclear plant in Oconee, S.C.

The current license for the facilities are scheduled to expire in the summer of 2016, said a spokesperson for Duke Energy Carolinas.

The proximity to the nuclear station led some nearby residents, alarmed over potential water level changes at Lake Keowee, to file letters of protest with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Lake Keowee is a man-made reservoir created by Duke for electricity generation and public recreation. Lake Keowee impounds waters from the Keowee River and other sources.

NRC has been contacting these stakeholders to tell them the issue is actually before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Duke Energy was scheduled to have a public meeting with stakeholders May 22 to discuss a recent agreement in principle on future operations for the Keowee-Toxaway Hydroelectric Project.

Duke said it has reached a non-binding agreement with more than 40 stakeholders representing 22 organizations that would cover hydroelectric operations and regional drought response for the next 30 to 50 years.

Duke hopes the stakeholders, who have been collaborating with Duke since last fall, will sign a binding relicensing agreement with the company in November of this year.

The agreement in principle addresses a “low inflow protocol” that outlines a coordinated response to droughts. The protocol outlines drought “triggers” and actions that could decrease the volume of water leaving Duke’s reservoirs as the severity of a drought increases.

Some Lake Keowee area residents have written NRC to express concern that the possibility of Duke lowering the water level in Lake Keowee by five feet during drought conditions could hurt waterfront lots and property values.

In one May 17 letter, NRC directed the resident to FERC, because it regulates Lake Keowee. “We have previously evaluated the effect of low lake levels of those nuclear reactors [at Oconee] and concluded that they can continue to operate safely as long as the level of Lake Keowee exceeds 791 feet, which is measured relative to mean sea level,” NRC said.


About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.