FERC grants license for 6.8-MW hydro project in Illinois

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on July 22 granted a May 2009 application from Northern Illinois Hydropower LLC for an original license to construct and operate the Brandon Road Hydroelectric Project, to be located at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the Des Plaines River near the Village of Rockdale in Will County, Illinois.

The project will occupy 0.06 acre of federal land administered by the Corps. The project’s authorized capacity being licensed is 6.8 MW.

In March 2015, Northern Illinois amended its application to: alter the location of the proposed powerhouse at Brandon Road Dam from headgate sections 13 through 16 to sections 1 through 4; increase the number of proposed turbine/generator units from 2 to 4; reduce the installed capacity of the proposed project from 10.2 to 6.8 MW; reduce the minimum and maximum hydraulic capacities of the proposed project from 675 and 4,500 cubic feet per second (cfs), respectively, to 166 and 3,320 cfs, respectively; eliminate its proposal to construct a switchyard; replace its proposal for a 1.57-mile-long, 12-kV overhead transmission line with a 0.36-mile-long, 34.5-kV overhead transmission line; and include a proposal to cease project operations when the Corps’ flow releases through the Corps’ headgates and Tainter gates (i.e., outlet structures) cumulatively fall below 1,000 cfs.

The project will be located on the Des Plaines River at river mile 286, approximately 13 miles upstream from its confluence with the Kankakee River. The Des Plaines and Kankakee Rivers together form the Illinois River. The Illinois River flows for 273 miles in a southerly and southwesterly direction to its confluence with the Mississippi River near Grafton, Illinois. 9. The Corps’ navigation system from Chicago, Illinois, to Grafton, Illinois, is known as the Illinois Waterway and provides transportation for barge traffic from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

The state of Illinois began construction of Brandon Road Lock and Dam in 1927. In 1930, construction was turned over to the federal government and completed, under the authority of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1930, in 1933. The primary role of Brandon Road Lock and Dam is to maintain a water surface elevation within the Brandon Road Reservoir for commercial navigation. At the time of construction, hydropower was considered at the dam but was not installed. However, both dam and spillway structures (e.g., headgates) were designed to allow for future hydropower development.

A 0.36-mile-long, 34.5-kV overhead transmission line will transmit power from the powerhouse to an interconnection point at an existing distribution line owned by Commonwealth Edison.

Northern Illinois proposes to operate the project in a run-of-release mode using flows made available by the Corps that otherwise would pass through the dam via the Corps’ outlet structures. Northern Illinois also proposes to cease project operations when the Corps’ flow releases through the Corps’ outlet structures, other than the lock, cumulatively fall below 1,000 cfs. During flood conditions, generation will be suspended when excessive debris conditions exist, or when tailwater levels rise to the point where insufficient head exists for the turbines to operate effectively.

Northern Illinois proposes to fully automate project operation to meet the Corps’ requirements for maintaining the reservoir level in the Brandon Road Reservoir. The project will allow instantaneous access by the Corps to modify hydroelectric operation in response to emergencies associated with lock operation, flood control, or other events. The project will generate an average of 40,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) annually.

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.