The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved a pilot project to test a two-year licensing process for hydropower development at non-powered dams and closed-loop pumped storage projects. Free Flow Power Project 92, LLC's (FFP) proposed 5-megawatt project would be located at the Kentucky River Authority's existing Lock & Dam No. 11 on the Kentucky River in Estill and Madison counties, Kentucky.
The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 directed the Commission to investigate the feasibility of a two-year licensing process, develop criteria for identifying projects that may be appropriate for the process, and develop and implement pilot projects to test the process. In compliance with the Act, FERC staff conducted an October 22, 2013 workshop, and the Commission solicited pilot projects in a January 6, 2014, notice.
In addition to approving FFP’s request to test a two-year process, the approval letter issued by the Office of Energy Projects requests that the developer conduct studies relating to project hydraulics, water quality, aquatic habitat, fish entrainment and survival, cultural resources, and rare, threatened, and endangered species. The letter also includes a process plan and schedule based on FFP filing a license application by May 5, 2015.
The January notice set minimum criteria and a process plan for projects that may be appropriate for licensing within a two-year process. These include:
The project must cause little to no change to existing surface and groundwater flows and uses;
The project must not adversely affect federally listed threatened and endangered species;
If the project is proposed to be located at or use a federal dam, the request to use the two-year process must include a letter from the dam owner saying the plan is feasible;
If the project would use any public park, recreation area, or wildlife refuge, the request to use the two-year process must include a letter from the managing entity giving its approval to use the site; and
For a closed-loop pumped storage project, the project must not be continuously connected to a naturally flowing water feature.