The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today approved the construction of a hydroelectric project in Colorado, the first issued since FERC and the state of Colorado signed an agreement last year to simplify procedures for the development of small-scale hydropower projects. As a result of the streamlined procedures, the approval of today’s project was completed in two months.
The Meeker Wenschhof hydroelectric project, to be located on an existing irrigation pipeline near the town of Meeker in Rio Blanco County, would consist of a powerhouse containing one generating unit with an installed capacity of 23 kilowatts and an average annual generation of 100,000 kilowatt hours. FERC approved the project in a two-month time span.
In signing the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Colorado in August 2010, FERC said it had seen rising interest among entities seeking to develop small, low-impact hydropower projects. Federal surveys have identified several hundred potential small hydropower projects of smaller than 5 megawatts (MW) in Colorado with a combined capacity of more than 1,400 MW. These projects have the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting Colorado’s energy needs while helping to satisfy Colorado’s new Renewable Energy Standard and create related business opportunities.
“Small hydro is a renewable resource that has tremendous potential,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. “FERC and Colorado have shown their commitment to moving these projects forward knowing that, ultimately, it will benefit consumers and help create jobs. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
The MOU signed by FERC and Colorado agreed to the following:
- Colorado will develop a pilot program to test options for simplifying and streamlining procedures for authorizing conduit exemptions and small 5MW or less exemption projects while ensuring environmental safeguards;
- Colorado and FERC will identify a single point of contact for implementation of the pilot program;
- Both parties will hold quarterly teleconferences to discuss the development and implementation of the pilot program;
- Both parties will share and make publicly available all relevant economic, environmental, and technical data.
- FERC will waive certain consultation requirements when all relevant resources agencies agree to do so.