FERC issues preliminary hydro permit for Iowa project

On Dec. 19, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission declared FFP Qualified Hydro 14 LLC as the winner of a preliminary permit on a prospective hydroelectric project in Iowa.

On Feb. 1, the FFP Qualified Hydro 14 affiliate of Boston-based Free Flow Power filed a preliminary permit application to study the feasibility of the Saylorville Dam Water Power Project, to be located at the existing Saylorville Dam and Lake on the Des Moines River in the City of Johnston in Polk County, Iowa.

At the same time, the Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency filed a competing preliminary permit application for the proposed 15-MW Saylorville Hydroelectric Project, to be located at the same site. Western Minnesota claimed entitlement to municipal preference under the Federal Power Act. But, FERC decided to issue the preliminary permit to FFP and deny Western Minnesota’s application.

The Saylorville Dam and Lake are owned by the U.S. government and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

FFP’s proposed project would include:

  • a new 120-foot-long by 70-foot-wide concrete powerhouse, containing three 4.8-MW Kaplan turbine-generators, with a combined nameplate capacity of 14.4 MW;
  • a new 60-foot-long by 50-foot-wide substation; and
  • a new 4,950-foot-long, 69-kV transmission line from the project substation to an interconnection point and a buried 1,000-foot-long, 4.16-kV transmission line from the powerhouse to the project substation.

The project would have an estimated annual generation of 45.3 gigawatt-hours (GWh).

This is a successive permit for FFP on this project

In February 2010, the commission issued FFP a preliminary permit for the site. The permit expired on Jan. 31, 2013, leading to this need for a new one.

FFP asserts that it has been diligent under the terms of its previous permit because: it has filed a Pre-Application Document (PAD), Notice of Intent with a request to use the Traditional Licensing Process (TLP), and a Planned Study Document (PSD); consulted federal and state agencies; and modified its design concept as a result of consultations with the Corps. FERC held a drawing on the competing proposals on Oct. 21, with FFP being the winner.

FERC said its rules are a little vague on what constitutes a municipal preference. “It is appropriate that a municipality be granted preference in developing nearby hydropower sites for the benefit of its citizens. However, it is difficult to discern what public interest is served by giving a municipality a preference with respect to a project that is far from the site of the municipality. To do so would effectively make municipalities super-competitors with respect to all new hydropower developments, regardless of their location. For example, if municipal preference were viewed as absolute, a municipal entity located on the east coast could claim preference over a private entity seeking to develop a project in Hawaii. Indeed an unlimited application of municipal preference could wind up harming municipalities in some instances, as in a case where a distant municipality competed for the same water resource as a municipal applicant located at the project site. If both entities could legitimately claim preference, and if they filed applications at the same time, the distant municipality might win a tiebreaker drawing and then deprive the nearby municipality of the right to utilize a local water resource.”

FERC added: “Here, Western Minnesota seeks municipal preference with respect to a project located almost 400 miles from Ortonville on the Des Moines River in Des Moines, Iowa, and the record reveals no connection, beyond a business development interest, between the proposed project and the applicant. We conclude that granting municipal preference to Western Minnesota in these circumstances would not be in the public interest.”

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.