FERC rejects permit extension for AMP hydro project on Ohio River

American Municipal Power and the city of Oberlin, Ohio, were rejected Aug. 30 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for an extension of time to look at the feasibility of a 49.5-MW hydro project on the Ohio River.

The parties need an extended preliminary permit to look at the feasibility of the 49.5-MW Pike Island Hydroelectric Project. In the sixth and final update under the existing, three-year preliminary permit, filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, AMP said several factors are affecting project viability.

“During the last reporting period, AMP has completed its estimate and it is working to determine whether the Pike Island project will fit within its existing power supply portfolio,” it said in the Aug. 31 report. “Declines in natural gas prices, uncertainty in the municipal bond market, and difficulty due to the excessive and lengthy permitting process has inhibited AMP’s ability to prepare and complete a license application.”

AMP noted that it submitted to FERC a request for a two-year extension, with that request dated Aug. 26, to better allow AMP to evaluate the economic viability of the project. On Aug. 30, FERC rejected that Aug. 26 extension request.

“Section 5 of the Federal Power Act, as amended by the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 (H.R. 267), states that a preliminary permit term can be extended once for not more than two additional years if the Commission finds that the permittee has carried out activities under the permit in good faith and with reasonable diligence,” said FERC’s Aug. 30 decision. “In its application, Oberlin states that it has been working to determine whether the Pike Island Project will fit within its existing power supply portfolio and that it would be premature for it to carry out extensive engineering and environmental studies on the project until it has had additional time to better assess the financial feasibility of the project in light of rapidly changing economic conditions. Oberlin notes that its good faith and reasonable diligence is demonstrated by the fact that its agent, American Municipal Power, Inc. (AMP), is constructing four licensed hydroelectric projects on the Ohio River (Cannelton, Smithland, Willow Island, and Meldahl), and has a license application pending for another hydroelectric project (R.C. Byrd).”

FERC added: “Upon review of the application for extension, as well as the five progress reports submitted under the preliminary permit, we find that Oberlin has not demonstrated that it has carried out activities under the permit in good faith and with reasonable diligence. The information provided in each of the progress reports is very similar, with each noting the ongoing evaluation of proposals to provide engineering services to assist in drafting a preliminary application document. In addition, Oberlin expresses doubt in the progress reports on the economic viability of the project, and states in its application to extend the permit term that additional time is needed to assess the financial feasibility of the project. Oberlin states that it does not plan to carry out extensive engineering and environmental studies on the project until this financial feasibility is further evaluated.”

Any party may file a request for rehearing of this order within 30 days from Aug. 30.

The proposed project would be located at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ existing Pike Island Locks and Dam, on the Ohio River, in Ohio County, W.Va., and Belmont County, Ohio. In its September 2010 decision to issue this preliminary permit, FERC picked Oberlin as the winner out of two competing applications. The other application had been filed by Free Flow Power, which is developing a number of hydro projects around the U.S.

  • Oberlin’s proposed project would consist of: a new 155-foot-wide, 71-foot-tall water intake structure; a new 155-foot-wide, 189-foot-long powerhouse containing three turbine units with a total capacity of 49.5 MW; a new 350-foot-long, 160-foot-wide tailrace channel; and a new 8.5-mile-long, 138-kV transmission line. The project would have an average annual generation of 256 gigawatt-hours (GWh).
  • Free Flow Power’s proposed project would consist of: a new 225-foot-wide, 50-foot-long water intake structure equipped with trashracks, sluice gates, and intake gates; a new 160-foot-wide, 140-foot-long powerhouse containing three turbine units with a total capacity of 45 MW; a new 500-foot-long, 200-foot-wide tailrace channel; and a new 1.5-mile-long, 138-kV transmission line. The project, as proposed at that time, would have an average annual generation of 225 GWh.
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.