FirstEnergy pursues license on Pennsylvania pumped storage project

A unit of FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE), FirstEnergy Generation LLC, on Dec. 2 filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a final license application for extended operation and refurbishment of the Kinzua Pumped Storage Project in Pennsylvania.

This is the pumped storage project that FirstEnergy has a pending deal to sell to LS Power Development, along with some smaller run-of-river hydro projects in the region. FirstEnergy also recently worked out a settlement of issues with the Seneca Nation, which has underlying property rights at this facility, prompting the nation to recently withdraw at FERC a competing plan for this facility.

The project is located adjacent to the Allegheny River about nine miles upstream of Warren, Pa., and approximately 60 miles southeast of Erie, Pa. The project’s powerhouse is located downstream of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Kinzua Dam, adjacent to the Kinzua Dam’s left (facing downstream) abutment.

The project’s Upper Reservoir, where water is pumped uphill at slack power demand periods to be released to generate electricity during peak periods, is located in the Allegheny National Forest on lands managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS). The Upper Reservoir is located about 1,300 feet southwest of the left abutment of the Kinzua Dam (facing downstream), and on the Allegheny Plateau at an approximate elevation of 2,000 feet, or about 800 feet above the Allegheny River. The project’s authorized installed capacity is 451.8 MW.

FirstEnergy plans changes that won’t affect overall project output

Under this proposed action, the licensee would increase the maximum operating level of the Upper Reservoir by one foot, allowing a greater volume of water to be used for generation. No new generating equipment will be installed for this proposed action nor will existing equipment require modification, the application noted.

Raising the operating level of the Upper Reservoir by one foot would increase the maximum amount of water that can be used from the Allegheny Reservoir. However, the project rarely uses the entire current maximum volume of the Upper Reservoir.

Increasing the regulatory volume of the Upper Reservoir would serve three functions.

  • First, the additional storage would provide approximately 20-22 minutes of additional generation with Unit 2 operating at a rate of 3,500 cfs. At this flow rate and headpond level, Unit 2 would produce between 200 and 220 MW resulting in an additional output of approximately 80 megawatt-hours (MWH) per day. If this operation occurs daily 90% of the time, this option would provide an annual generation increase of approximately 26,000 MWH, although in practice the licensee anticipates only rarely using the full capacity of the Upper Reservoir in a single generating cycle.
  • Second, it would provide one more foot of head than is currently available, regardless of the volume used per operating cycle.
  • The third important function is that an increase in volume provides an important reserve margin for system (grid) support. Pumped storage facilities provide the grid with black start capabilities and system support in the case of brownouts and blackouts, the application pointed out.

Under this proposed action, the licensee would operate Unit 2 to discharge to the Allegheny River on a more frequent basis than under current operations. To facilitate these operations, the licensee proposes to install a system to automate operation of the project’s Lower Intake bulkheads and USACE sluice gates and refurbish the Unit 2 butterfly valve.

The licensee would make improvements to the Lower Intake bulkheads. It would install a new programmable logic controller (PLC) based system, which would automatically open, close, and position the USACE’s Kinzua Dam sluice gates, the Unit 2 butterfly valve and the Lower Intake bulkheads. The new PLC will be integrated with the existing Unit 2 PLC and Unit 3 PLC so that the USACE’s sluice gates and Unit 2 and Unit 3 discharges will automatically adjust to maintain the downstream target flows.

No new generating equipment will be installed or require modification for this proposed action. The project currently has a gross average annual energy production of about 559,059 megawatt-hours (MWh) per year, and an annual plant factor of approximately 14% based on its current FERC-authorized capacity of 451.8 MW.

The primary purpose of the Kinzua project is to supply peaking power, capacity, storage, voltage regulation, spinning reserve, black start and other ancillary grid services in and to the PJM Interconnection. The licensee sells the majority of the power produced at the project to PJM administered energy markets.

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.