Colorado conduit hydropower project

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A proposed hydroelectric project in Colorado has received a federal determination that it qualifies as a "qualifying conduit hydroelectric facility" and thus is not required to be licensed under Part I of the Federal Power Act.  The Park Farm Hydro Project illustrates the rapid pace with which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can act on conduit hydropower projects under a 2013 amendment to its law.

The Federal Power Act requires most hydropower projects to be licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  But Section 4 of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 amended the Federal Power Act to facilitate "conduit hydropower" projects -- those generating electricity using only the hydroelectric potential of a non-federally owned conduit, such as a tunnel, canal, pipeline, aqueduct, flume, ditch, or similar manmade water conveyance that is operated for the distribution of water for agricultural, municipal, or industrial consumption, and is not primarily for the generation of electricity.  Reforms in 2013 exempted qualifying conduit hydropower facilities from needing a license, and established a fast process for to solicit public comment and confirm whether the new exemption applies.  In the ensuing years, a number of projects have qualified for this treatment.

On January 27, 2016, an applicant filed a notice of intent, pursuant to section 30(a) of the Federal Power Act, as amended by Section 4 of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, to construct a qualifying conduit hydropower facility, the Park Farm Hydro Project, to be located near the Town of Kersey, in Weld County, Colorado.  The notice described a proposal to add ten 1-kilowatt Crossflow turbines alongside an existing "ditch drop" or conduit in the Lower Latham Ditch.

On February 2, 2016, the Commission issued its notice of preliminary determination that the proposal satisfies the requirements for a qualifying conduit hydropower facility, which is not required to be licensed or exempted from licensing.  The notice set a 30-day deadline for filing motions to intervene, and a 45-day deadline for filing comments contesting whether the facility meets the qualifying criteria.  No such comments or motions were received.

On March 22, 2016 -- less than 2 months after the applicant first filed its notice of intent -- the Commission issued a letter constituting its written determination that the Park Farm Hydro Project meets the qualifying criteria under Federal Power Act section 30(a), and is not required to be licensed under Part I of the FPA, although other federal, state, and local laws do apply.

This quick timing on the Park Farm project is consistent with other recent FERC action on proposed conduit hydropower projects.

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