DOE signs off on enviro review for funding help for Pennsylvania hydro project

The U.S. Department of Energy on Oct. 27 issued a finding of no significant impact and a final environmental assessment related to a hydroelectric project on the Monongahela River in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, where DOE will provide funding help to demonstrate new technology.

DOE’s environmental assessment is largey based on a final environmental assessment that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued in June 2014 for the Braddock Locks and Dam Hydroelectric project, being developed by Hydro Green Energy LLC. The FERC licensed project would include construction of: a powerhouse with seven turbine-generators at the left closure weir on the south side (river left) of the Corps’ existing Braddock Locks and Dam, having a total installed capacity of 5.25 MW; a 0.45-mile-long, 23-kV transmission line; and a switchyard and control room. The project’s average annual electricity generation is estimated to be 32,263 megawatt-hours (MWh). This project is located at the existing Braddock Locks & Dam controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

DOE, through its Wind and Water Power Program, is proposing to provide funding to support fabrication and installation of one of the seven turbine generators. Specifically, DOE funding would be used for the fabrication and installation of a 0.7-MW interchangeable Modular Bulb Turbine (MBT) into the modified Braddock Locks and Dam. The purpose is to demonstrate component or system testing of advanced innovative hydropower technologies that will improve the unit and plant efficiency.

Demonstrating small advanced hydropower technologies will promote cost-effective sustainable small hydropower development thereby making previously marginal projects feasible and more sites attractive for hydropower development, the department said. DOE’s action is intended to address the need for efficient and low cost small hydropower that can be quickly and efficiently deployed in low head/low flow existing waterways and constructed waterways.

The National Hydropower Association (NHA) recently estimated that more than 60 GW of new hydropower can be developed in the U.S. by 2025. The availability of new, more environmentally compatible hydropower technologies will be important in future new developments. To take advantage of the small hydropower potential, DOE is sponsoring research that will ultimately reduce the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) for small hydropower to be competitive with the lowest cost utility-scale technologies. In the near term the goal is to reduce the Levelized Cost of Energy for small hydropower to less than $0.07/kWh to be competitive with existing base-load power sources such as coal-fired power plants.

Hydro Green Energy, on behalf of Lock+ Hydro Friends Fund XLII LLC (HFF), on Feb. 18 urged FERC to take expedited action on a license order issuance for the Braddock Locks & Dam Hydropower Project because of issues with possible DOE support for the project. Hydro Green Energy on behalf of HFF had applied for the DOE’s Loan Guarantee Program for the project. Of the five named eligible project types in the solicitation, one had to do with incorporation of power production into currently non-powered dams. FERC approved the original license for this project on June 4 of this year.

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.