SMUD gets new FERC licence for hydro project

29 July 2014

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in the US has received a new 50-year licence from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to operate its 688MW Upper American River Project (UARP), while also getting the green light to move forward with the design and potential construction of its proposed Iowa Hill pumped-storage development.

UARP, which provides about 15% of SMUD's customers' yearly power needs, consists of 11 reservoirs and eight powerhouses spanning an area from the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains to the foothill communities of the Sacramento valley.

The terms of the new license reflect the results of formal agreements reached between SMUD and numerous stakeholders in the relicensing process including state and federal resources agencies, environmental groups, local government, the whitewater boating community and the general public.
The license contains a number of operational changes, recreation upgrades and monitoring programs. It also includes a project expansion that will further enhance natural resources in the project area and energy-related value derived from the hydro project. Increases in the volume of water released from reservoirs into streams and rivers will benefit natural resources. Aquatic resources in all eight tributaries of the project will benefit from increases in minimum flow releases, and new high-volume pulse flows will wash fine material from streambeds.

Under the new license, SMUD will coordinate UARP operations with the downstream Chili Bar Hydroelectric Project, which is operated by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).

The new license also directs SMUD to move forward with plans for the proposed Iowa Hill pumped-storage development. This development would add a significant level of operating flexibility that would help SMUD balance supply and demand on the grid. It would play a crucial role in allowing SMUD to develop larger supplies of intermittent wind and solar power. As directed in the new license, SMUD will continue to evaluate the feasibility of building the development over the next three years, before the SMUD Board of Directors determines whether to proceed with construction.

Over the next 30 days SMUD staff will review the new license to determine if it contains significant changes from the agreements reached between SMUD and the relicensing stakeholders. Should it decide to do so, SMUD has 30 days from the day the license is issued to file an appeal of any portion of the license.

As the nation's sixth-largest community-owned electric service provider, SMUD has been providing low-cost, reliable electricity for more than 65 years to Sacramento County (and a small portion of Placer County). SMUD is a recognized industry leader and award winner for its innovative energy efficiency programs, renewable power technologies, and for its sustainable solutions for a healthier environment. SMUD is the first large California utility to receive more than 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources.

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