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More Hydro Power For San Joaquin & Kaweah Rivers

Friant Dam,near Fresno

More hydroelectric power is being planned for both the San Joaquin River at Friant Dam and on the Kaweah River at Terminus Dam.

At Friant, the 8 member water districts who own the Friant Power Authority plan to upgrade a 2MW power plant on the San Joaquin River by another 7MW to utilize the higher flows of water that are heading down the river as part of  the restoration process. The dam already has two other hydropower plants flows that go both north on the Madera Çanal and south on the Friant Kern, each in operation since 1986.

Friant water officials have said with reduced flows not being diverted   both north and south due to the legal settlement to help salmon restoration they would be losing some $2.7 million annually in power revenues that help the water districts. Instead, more water is being released down river.

In the works since the settlement was put in place in 2006 the $25 mili project is going out to bid for the equipment to build a new 7MW facility adjacent to the existing 2 MW River Outlet Powerhouse.The renewable energy project is slated to be on line in summer 2014 says Orange Cove ID engineer Fergus Morrissey.

”We have our FERC license,the power has been sold and all approvals are in place.”

On the Kaweah River a $15 million hydro project would add 9MW of  electricity generating capacity to the 20MW Terminus power project alredy in place according to a preliminary permit application filed with the Federal Energy Commission (FERC) in July.

“We have flows coming out of the dam that sometimes exceed our capacity to capture them” says Gene Kilgore of Kaweah power Authority, owned 75% by Kaweah Delta Water conservation district and 25% by Tulare Irrigation District.  The power plant can utilize flows up to 1500cfs now says Kilgore but they want to be able to handle peak flows of 2500 to 2800cfs he says.

The FERC notice “gives us the right to move forward on the project” but it is not a final OK that will still require several years to finalize.In fact Kilgore says it starts the process for his group to do a formal feasibility study.

Even more daunting however is the project will require a ruling by the State Water Resources Board to utilize  the water even though they want only to utilize the existing supply, essentially borrow the water for a short period and plan no appropriation. “But that could take 5 years” he shrugs.

The power plant would be upgraded from 20MW to 29MW of power.Its nameplate power was last increased in2004 form 17MW upon the completion of the dam enlargement project.

Currently the electricity is sold to SCE but once the 9MW comes on line the number of potential buyers are numerous since the power market has opened up and will likely continue to do so.

Kilgore adds “federal officials are really pushing more hydro power where there is an opportunity ” because renewable power offers fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

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