FirstEnergy looks at adding capacity at Kinzua hydro project

FirstEnergy Generation LLC, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE), applied July 3 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to relicense the 451.8-MW Kinzua Pumped Storage Project.

One option under this relicensing would increase the electrical output from this existing facility. The Kinzua Project is located in the Allegheny National Forest and at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River, about 9 miles upstream of Warren, Pa.

The pumped storage project is primarily composed of an Upper Reservoir, integral water conduits and control facilities, and a powerhouse. The powerhouse is located adjacent to and on the downstream side of the Kinzua Dam on the southern bank and contains three units. Units 1 and 2 are reversible pump turbines capable of both generation and pumping, and Unit 3 is a conventional generating turbine. The total FERC Authorized Installed Capacity of all three units is 451.8 MW.

The existing FERC license for Kinzua was effective in 1965 and expires in November 2015. FirstEnergy is using FERC’s Integrated Licensing Process (ILP) to prepare for the filing of the license application, which must be filed with FERC on or before Nov. 30, 2013. In accordance with the process and schedule requirements of the ILP, FirstEnergy on July 3 filed a Preliminary Licensing Proposal (PLP) with the commission and participating agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the public.

The Kinzua powerhouse is a 230-foot-long and 75-foot-wide concrete- and steel-walled structure located mostly underground. When operating as turbines, Units 1 and 2 each have a rated nameplate output of 242,000 horsepower (hp) (181 MW) at a net head of 646 feet. Unit 3 has a rated nameplate output of 42,120 hp (31.4 MW) at a net head of 825 feet.

A new, 8.8-MW Unit 4 among the options offered

Under one alternative presented in the July 3 application, FirstEnergy noted that while it seldom uses all of the available water in a single generating cycle, increasing the regulatory volume of the Upper Reservoir would serve three functions. The first is that the system would typically be operating at one more foot of head than under current operations, regardless of the volume that would be used per operating cycle. The second and more important function is that an increase in volume provides an important reserve margin for power grid support. Finally, with Unit 2 operating at a rate of 3,500 cfs, increasing the Upper Reservoir level by one foot would provide approximately 20-22 minutes of additional output. At this flow rate and headpond level, Unit 2 would produce between 200 and 220 MW resulting in an additional output of approximately 80 MWh. If this operation occurs daily 90% of the time, this option would provide an annual generation increase of approximately 26,000 MWh.

Under another alternative, a new conventional turbine would be installed to use water flowing through the Unit 2 low-head conduit between the intake in the Allegheny Reservoir and the powerhouse. The turbine would be located upstream of the existing powerhouse. A penstock would tap into the existing low-head conduit and deliver water to a new turbine called Unit 4. The turbine, likely a Francis-style turbine, would be housed in an underground powerhouse and would likely be capable of producing 8.8 MW. This powerhouse would discharge water into the stilling basin and into the river on the upstream side of the powerhouse.

The proposed Unit 4 could use water that currently flows through or over the Kinzua Dam. The unit would likely operate only when the pumped storage project is neither pumping nor generating. Flow from this option could be used to help meet a Corps downstream flow requirement. The proposed powerhouse would be located between the existing powerhouse and the Kinzua Dam. It is unclear whether this area is currently part of the Allegheny River Wild and Scenic River boundary corridor. Therefore, FERC may be unable to license this alternative, FirstEnergy noted.

Among the alternatives that FirstEnergy considered and then rejected for this application are:

  • FirstEnergy considered installing either a unit similar to the unit recently installed at the Corps’ Jordan dam, or matrix-type turbines that have been installed at other Corps dams. Either option could conceptually be installed on the upstream side of the sluice gate. However, there are technical issues that complicate development at this location.
  • Develop a new intake in the headpond on the right side of the dam and extend a conduit or multiple conduits to a powerhouse located at the toe of the dam. Development at this location could utilize all of the available head as well as maximize use of the available flow. While development at this location is considered technically viable, it may not be economically feasible.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.