Alaska agency files notice to license 600-MW Susitna-Watana

WASHINGTON 1/11/12 (PennWell) -- The Alaska Energy Authority has notified the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission it will proceed with licensing the 600-MW Susitna-Watana hydroelectric project on Alaska's upper Susitna River.

AEA filed a Notice of Intent to license the project (No. 14241), which it has been studying under a FERC preliminary permit. The agency last year named hydro licensing expert Wayne Dyok to be lead project manager for Susitna-Watana.

The Dec. 29 notice marks the beginning of the formal licensing process and is required should the AEA meet its current goal of submitting a license application by mid-September 2015. In the meantime, AEA must complete site surveys, preliminary engineering work, environmental impact assessments, and financing plans.

While the dam's design is still being evaluated, AEA proposed a concrete gravity or rockfill dam of from 700 to 800 feet tall and a crest length of at least 2,700 feet. It would create a 39-mile-long reservoir 90 river-miles northeast of Talkeetna, Alaska.

Based on ongoing feasibility studies and updates to Alaska's Railbelt Integrated Resource Plan, the project's capacity could be as large as 800 MW. The three-unit project is to be constructed with an additional bay that could accommodate a future capacity increase, AEA said.

Licensing the project is expected to take six years. Construction is to take five years, with first power delivered by 2023. Susitna-Watana would generate energy using the glacial waters of the upper Susitna River, transmitting it north to the interior and south to south-central Alaska along new and existing transmission lines.

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