Over the protest of the Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Oct. 23 declared that FFP Qualified Hydro 14 LLC has the priority choice on pursuing a preliminary permit for a hydro project.
On Oct. 21, the commission held a drawing to determine priority between competing preliminary permit applications with identical filing times. Preliminary permits allow a developer an exclusive period to look at project feasibility, with a license application then needed if the decision is to pursue project development.
In the event that the commission concludes that neither of the applicants’ plans is better adapted than the other to develop, conserve, and utilize in the public interest the water resources of the region at issue, the priority established by the Oct. 21 drawing serves as the tiebreaker. Based on the drawing, the order of priority is:
- FFP Qualified Hydro 14 LLC, Project No. 13579-002; and then
- Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Project No. 14491-000.
The agency on Oct. 21 protested even having this drawing, saying that as a municipal agency, it has a preference right for a preliminary permit over a private developer.
“WMMPA has demonstrated its municipal status in several preliminary permit applications, including the instant application,” the agency said in the Oct. 21 filing. “The Commission has previously issued a preliminary permit to WMMPA and denied the competing application of its non-municipal competitor on the basis of WMMPA’s municipality status. The Commission has also consistently found that it is unable, except in the most unusual circumstances, to determine that one permit applicant’s plans are better adapted than another’s. There is nothing in the record to suggest that the competing non-municipal application in this proceeding has met that extraordinarily high bar. Indeed, if they had, a tie breaker to determine filing priority would be superfluous.”
The agency noted: “Although the applicant for Project No. 13579, FFP Qualified Hydro 14 LLC, previously held a preliminary permit for a project at this site, its progress reports show only that it has preliminarily studied various potential project configurations and has not finalized a design or done any significant resource agency consultation and environmental studies.”
Both preliminary permit applications were filed on Feb. 1 for largely similar projects to be located at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Saylorville Dam and Lake on the Des Moines River, in the city of Johnston in Polk County, Iowa. The projects would have about the same installed capacity (WMMPA at 15 MW versus FFP at 14.4 MW), with WMMPA’s project to generate about 66 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of energy annually, compared to 45.3 GWh for the FFP project.
FFP is an affiliate of Boston-based hydro developer Free Flow Power.