Citing a lack of “reasonable diligence,” the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Nov. 21 rejected an application from the Alabama Municipal Electric Authority for an extended preliminary permit on a 25-MW hydro project in Alabama.
On Sept. 30, the Alabama Municipal Electric Authority (AMEA) filed an application for a two-year extension of its existing preliminary permit for the proposed George W. Andrews Lock and Dam Hydroelectric Project, issued in December 2010, and expiring on Nov. 30. The project would be located at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers existing George W. Andrews Lock and Dam on the Chattahoochee River in Houston County, Alabama.
In its application, AMEA stated that it needs two more years, until Nov. 30, 2015, to determine the feasibility of the project because a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit decision in 2011 requires that the Corps revise its operation of the Buford Project at Lake Lanier to allow for increased flows from the Buford Project to support downstream water consumption. The court also directed the Corps to revise its Water Control Manuals that governs the operation of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin.
AMEA stated that the flow changes that will result from these revisions puts AMEA is in the position of trying to predict flows at its proposed project that will not follow historic patterns. AMEA stated that the revised final water control manual is not expected until 2016, but a draft should be released prior to the final, which AMEA would use to evaluate the project and prepare a license application.
“Upon review of the application for extension, as well as the five progress reports submitted under the preliminary permit, we find that AMEA has not demonstrated that it has carried out activities under the permit with reasonable diligence,” said the Nov. 21 FERC decision. “The information provided in each of the progress reports is very similar, each focusing on the evaluation of the engineering and economic feasibility of the project. Nothing in the progress reports or its extension application suggests that AMEA is any closer to preparing development application, or that it will be in the next two years.”
FERC added: “Furthermore, AMEA’s last progress report questions the economic feasibility of the project, stating that its evaluation has been complicated by an unpredictable drop in natural gas prices, decreasing the immediate generation value for many hydropower facilities; evolving renewable energy certificate requirements; as well as expected changes in the Corps’ water control manual. As to the latter, there is no assurance that the Corps draft or final water control manual will be issued during the next two years. Therefore, the request for extension of the preliminary permit term is denied.”
The project as proposed by AMEA would consist of:
- a new powerhouse containing four turbine-generators with a total combined plant capacity of 25 MW;
- an intake channel and a tailrace channel; and
- an approximately 10- mile-long, 115-kV transmission line connecting the powerhouse to an existing substation.
The proposed project would have an average annual generation of 82 gigawatt-hours.