Sacramento utility big winner in DOE-DOI hydro research funding

WASHINGTON 9/13/11 (PennWell) -- Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) of California received more than a third of the nearly $17 million in hydropower research and development grants announced Sept. 6 by the Departments of Energy and Interior.

Sixteen projects were selected by the agencies to receive $16.97 million over three years through a competitive grant process. The selection was based on each project's ability to produce hydropower more efficiently, reduce costs, and increase sustainable hydropower generation.

SMUD receives $6.45 million for Upper American River developments

Sacramento Municipal Utility District received a total of $6,455,888 for two projects, both involving developments of SMUD's 647.726-MW Upper American River hydroelectric project (No. 2101).

Of that amount, the utility received $4,961,138, under the Sustainable Pumped-Storage Hydropower grant topic area, for SMUD's proposal to build a new 400-MW Iowa Hill pumped-storage development as part of relicensing the Upper American River project . The grant is to help reduce risk and subsequent costs by funding geotechnical investigations of the mountain where Iowa Hills' water conveyance and powerhouse are to be located and by analyzing the value of energy and ancillary services the project would provide.

SMUD received another $1,494,750 under the Sustainable Small Hydro grant topic area, for SMUD's proposed 5-MW Slab Creek powerhouse, also to be added to Upper American River upon relicensing. Under its proposed Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicense, SMUD would begin releasing substantially higher flows from many Upper American reservoirs, including Slab Creek reservoir, to improve aquatic habitat. The Slab Creek powerhouse would utilize the increased flows to generate an additional 15 gigawatt-hours annually.

DOE lab receives $1.87 million for pumped storage research

The Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory received the next largest share of the grant funding, $1,875,000 for a project to model, simulate, and analyze operations of an advanced pumped-storage hydropower facility in the Western Electricity Coordinating Council region.

Argonne is to perform a comprehensive study of the technical and market operations, economics, and contribution to power system stability of pumped-storage hydropower.

Hydro Green wins $1.8 million for low-head hydro turbines

Private developer Hydro Green Energy LLC received two grants totaling $1.8 million for advanced research, development, and deployment of its low-head hydropower turbine and modular hydropower system.

Of that amount, $1.5 million is to help develop, install, and evaluate new low-head modular turbines at a constructed waterway in Austin, Texas. Another $300,000 is to help design, build, test, and validate a stackable, modular low-head turbine for sites such as existing locks and dams.

Hydro Green, of Houston, Texas, holds FERC preliminary permits to study development 280 MW at 28 sites, mostly at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams, and has applied for permits for sites totaling another 250 MW.

EPRI wins funds to deploy Alden turbine at 49.8-MW School Street

The Electric Power Research Institute won a $1.5 million grant to deploy and test a "fish-friendly" Alden Research Laboratories hydropower turbine at Erie Boulevard Hydropower L.P.'s 49.8-MW School Street hydroelectric project (No. 2539) in New York.

Awarded under the Environmental Mitigation Technologies for Conventional Hydropower grant topic, the funding is to support installation and testing to verify model test data and fish survival predictions. EPRI said the award requires an industry cost share that would bring total funding to $3 million.

The Alden turbine is intended to provide safer passage of downstream migrating fish, potentially minimizing or avoiding non-generating spill over dams and through fish passage facilities. It also provide additional generation from minimum flow releases.

Also under the Sustainable Small Hydro grant topic, renewables developer Earth by Design of Bend, Ore., received a $1.5 million grant to help develop and test a new low-head modular hydropower technology in a canal of Oregon's North Unit Irrigation District to produce cost-competitive electricity.

Developer Percheron Power LLC received a $1,495,427 grant to install and evaluate the nation's first Archimedes Hydrodynamic Screw hydropower system in Washington's Potholes East Canal. The Archimedes device consists of a central shaft with a helical blade, like a screw, through which water flows, turning the screw and a generator. Percheron, of Kennewick, Wash., has applied for a FERC preliminary permit (No. 14208) to study developing the 2.02-MW Potholes East Canal project featuring five units.

Natel Energy, a turbine manufacturer in Alameda, Calif., received two grants totaling $1,046,042 to develop its Schneider Linear hydroEngine. Of that, $300,000 under the Sustainable Small Hydro grant topic is to help develop and evaluate a new type of power train for the device that is expected to decrease the cost of energy for low-head projects. The remaining $746,042, under the System Testing at Bureau of Reclamation Facility grant topic, is to fund deployment and testing of a scaled-up version of the Schneider at a Reclamation facility in Madras, Ore., validating commercial performance and economic feasibility.

Near Space Systems, a Colorado Springs, Colo., manufacturer, received $300,000 to develop modular designs for innovative hydropower turbines and novel generators for harnessing outlet pipes.

DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory won a $299,906 grant to redesign its sensor fish, a data collection device that measures movement, acceleration, rotation, and pressure changes on the artificial fish as it passes through a hydro turbine. The new device is expected to be smaller and less expensive than previous sensor fish and could be deployed through a wide range of model and prototype turbine testing.

New Mexico State University received a $299,312 grant to help design, build, test, and validate two prototype devices that will harness the maximum amount of energy from low-head dams and drops in a waterway.

The University of Minnesota received $250,000 on behalf of its St. Anthony Falls Laboratory to develop a modeling tool for aerating turbines at hydropower plants to improve water quality. Turbine manufacturer Alstom Power is to match the grant for a total of $500,000. The project is to combine a physical test bed with new analytical and computational models for investigating how turbine blade shape and operation affect oxygen transfer and aeration.

Walter Wellington of Kittery, Maine, received a $93,000 grant to validate for commercialization the design of a direct-drive modular turbine-generator for man-made water structures having various head and flow conditions.

Weisenberger Mills, a Midway, Ky., flour mill operating since 1865, received $56,000 to evaluate variable speed permanent magnet generators for small low-head hydro to improve efficiency.

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