FERC okays 4-MW hydro project, instead of 200-MW pumped storage project

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, exercising a rule that gives municipal utilities priority rights to hydropower permitting, on Dec. 22 granted a July 1 application from the Ochoco Irrigation District for a preliminary permit to study for up to three years the feasibility of the proposed Bowman Dam Hydroelectric Project.

The project would be located at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Prineville Reservoir and Arthur R. Bowman Dam on the Crooked River near Prineville in Crook County, Oregon. Ochoco claimed a municipal preference. On the same day, Prineville Energy Storage LLC filed an application for a successive preliminary permit to study the feasibility of the proposed Prineville Pumped Storage Project, which would also be located at Reclamation’s Prineville Reservoir.

  • Ochoco’s proposed Bowman Dam Project would operate in a run-of-release mode within the constraints of the Reclamations’ operating procedures. The project would use Reclamation’s existing intake structure at the Bowman Dam and Prineville Reservoir. The project would include a powerhouse constructed on the bank adjacent to Reclamation’s existing spillway containing two Francis turbine/generator units for a total capacity of 4 MW, and an approximately 15-mile-long, 24.5-kV transmission line interconnecting to existing Central Electric Cooperative facilities. The average annual generation of the project is estimated to be 17.6 megawatt-hours (MWh).
  • Prineville’s project would be a pumped storage project that uses Reclamation’s Prineville Reservoir as the lower reservoir. The project would include a powerhouse located west of the Prineville Reservoir with two reversible pump turbine units for a total capacity of 200 MW, and a 15.6- to 16.2-mile-long, 115-kV transmission line interconnecting with the existing Ponderosa substation. The average annual generation of the project was estimated to be 525,600 MWh.

On July 19, 2013, commission staff issued a preliminary permit to Prineville, which expired on June 30, 2016.

On July 1, 2016, both Ochoco and Prineville submitted applications for preliminary permits that would utilize the Prineville Reservoir. Both applicants argued that the two proposals would not be in conflict with each other. However, because both proposals would utilize the Prineville Reservoir, commission staff issued a public notice of competing permit applications for Ochoco and Prineville’s proposals on Sept. 2, 2016.

Said the Dec. 22 FERC order: “Staff has found no basis for concluding that either applicant’s plan is superior to the other. Where one of the competing applicants is a municipality, and the plans of the municipality are at least as well adapted to develop, conserve, or utilize in the public interest the water resources of the region, the Commission favors the municipality. Because Ochoco is a municipality claiming preference under section 7(a) of the [Federal Power Act], the preliminary permit is issued to Ochoco for the Bowman Dam Project.”

FERC added in the order: “Prineville’s progress reports indicate that, over the three-year permit term, Prineville made very little progress toward the filing of a development application. The information provided in each of the progress reports is very similar, with each noting an ongoing evaluation of the engineering and economic feasibility of the project. Nothing in the progress reports or successive permit application suggests that Prineville is preparing a development application for the project or that Prineville performed any studies during the permit term.      

“The essence of the Commission’s policy against site banking is that an entity that is unwilling or unable to develop a site should not be permitted to maintain the exclusive right to develop it. Because Prineville failed to demonstrate that it carried out the required activities under its permit with due diligence, a successive preliminary permit is not warranted and would contribute to site banking.”

During the permit term, the developer is expected to work toward the filing with FERC of a license application for the project.

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.