Following in the wake of the $3.4 billion smart grid stimulus funding, the Department of Energy yesterday announced roughly $30 million in grants to seven hydroelectric facilities nationwide. The projects will produce about 187,000 MWh/year, enough to power more than 12,000 homes.
An important theme of the announcement was the incremental generation potential of the projects. No new dams were being built. Rather, older turbines would be replaced with newer more efficient models.
If generated using traditional means, the additional 187,000 MWh/year would cause 110,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide. The equipment change-out was expected to produce only marginal carbon emissions, mainly from equipment production.
As the stimulus funding is designed to create jobs, the announcement highlighted the retention of 40 jobs at Voith Hydro, a turbine manufacturer.
The seven grant projects included:
- Alcoa Inc.’s Tapoca Cheoah Hydro Plant (Robbinsville, NC): Replace four 90-year old turbines to increase generation by 95,000 MWh, a 23% increase ($13 million)
- Alabama Power Coosa River Plants (Mitchell, AL): Upgrade four units at three hydroelectric plants to increase generation by 36,087 MWh annually, a 7.3% increase ($6 million)
- City of Tacoma Public Utilities (Potlatch, WA): Install two additional turbines to generate 23,500 MWh annually, a 14% increase, plus an upstream native fish habitat project ($4.67 million)
- City of Boulder, Colorado: Upgrade 100-year-old Boulder Canyon Hydroelectric Project by replacing two older turbines with a single, high-efficiency unit to increase generation by 11,000 MWh annually, a 30% increase ($1.18 million)
- Los Alamos, New Mexico: Add a low flow turbine to increase plant capacity and generate an additional 6,462 MWh annually, a 22% increase ($4.56 million)
- Energy Northwest (Packwood, WA): Install a new Pelton Wheel turbine at the Packwood Lake Hydroelectric facility to increase generation by 5,868 MWh annually, a 6% increase ($800,000)
- North Little Rock Electric Department (Little Rock, AR): Install a new automated intake maintenance device to clear debris obstructing the intake and allow operation at peak efficiency ($450,000).
While these grants are small, they demonstrate the incremental improvements that we can make to our aging infrastructure.