Alaska Power runs into Forest Service problems with 77-MW hydro project

Alaska Power & Telephone told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in an Oct. 28 update that problems with U.S. Forest Service land-used planning mean that it will need to file for an extended preliminary permit on the 77-MW Soule Hydro LLC project.

Alaska Power & Telegraph (AP&T) got a three-year preliminary permit on the project in May 2013, and the Oct. 28 filing was the fifth of the twice-yearly reports that it has to file under that permit. Alaska Power is a joint venture partner of Soule Hydro.

“AP&T does not anticipate that a license application for the project will be submitted by the expiration date of this preliminary permit; instead, a new preliminary permit will be applied for,” the company reported. “A major factor preventing progress has been the U.S. Forest Service–Tongass National Forest lack of support for renewable energy projects, until recently. After two economic feasibility reports for the project conducted by third parties at the behest of AP&T in 2014, the USFS now proposes to amend the Tongass Forest Plan (the Draft EIS to be issued late November 2015) for two primary purposes”:

  • to transition from an old-growth timber industry to a young-growth timber industry; and
  • to correct deficiencies in the Forest Plan associated with renewable energy projects.

“The second purpose is what concerns us here,” the company added. “The USFS proposes to include in the amended Forest Plan a land use overlay LUD for renewable energy projects being developed within forest lands. … This overlay would allow renewable energy projects in any LUD except those designated by Congress. The public notice for the Draft EIS will be for a 90-day review and comment period. With this current schedule, comments won’t be due until approximately the end of February 2016. The USFS will then process those comments, extracting those related to the Renewable Energy overlay LUD and determining how they will incorporate comments into the revised Forest Plan.

“Based on the feedback the USFS receives on the Renewable Energy overlay LUD, we optimistically hope to know by April 2016 that the USFS will review a draft license application from the point-of-view of having a renewable energy overlay LUD already incorporated into the Forest Plan. This will allow us to issue a revised draft license application for agency review by the end of April 2016. We will be applying for another preliminary permit on May 1, 2016, as our current permit will expire on April 30.”

The update covered other things the company has been doing to pursue this project, concluding with: “The project appears to be technically feasible from the standpoint of an interconnection with the BC Hydro grid (interconnection study already completed). The project is also considered to be economically feasible based on two independent economic analysis that have been completed by two separate third parties. We expect to begin consultation with BC Hydro as the end-source customer sometime over the next year. Power could still be wheeled down to the Lower 48 States where the market is more receptive to outside sources of renewable energy.”

This is called the Soule River Hydroelectric Project, to be located on the Soule River within the Ketchikan Recording District, near Hyder, Alaska. The project is located on U.S. Forest Service lands in the Tongass National Forest. 

The project would include: a powerhouse with three Francis-type turbine/generator units with a total installed capacity of 77 MW; and a 138-kV, 700-foot-long buried transmission line across the Soule River connecting to a 10-mile-long submarine cable across the Portland Canal and ending with a 2.5-mile-long overhead line to the point of interconnection at the existing BC Hydro substation near Stewart. The estimated annual generation would be 283 gigawatt-hours.

A project contact is: Robert S. Grimm, President / CEO, Soule Hydro LLC c/o Alaska Power & Telephone, 193 Otto Street, P.O. Box 3222, Port Townsend, WA 98368, (360) 385-1733 ext. 120.

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.