Opportunities for Hydropower Projects on US BoR Facilities

Posted on: December 7, 2012

Many Wyoming and Montana irrigation districts and municipalities receive water through US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) conduits (canals, pipelines, etc.).   The USBR has a long history of generating electricity from hydropower in Montana and Wyoming.  With the increased desire for clean energy, the USBR Hydropower Program is reexamining existing structures that do not currently generate electricity.  Most of the potential hydroelectric facilities highlighted by the USBR would be too large for MT or WY net metering laws.  The new facilities would sell electricity into the wholesale electricity market, not offset onsite consumption.

The recent USBR reports Hydropower Resource Assessment at Existing Facilities (March 2011) and Site Inventory and Hydropower Energy Assessment of Reclamation Owned Conduits (March 2012) identify numerous sites in MT and WY potentially suitable for development.  The dams identified in the May 2011 report are

Montana Facility Name

Installed Capacity

(kW)

Annual Production

(MWh)

Benefit-Cost

Ratio

St. Mary Canal – Drop 4

2,569

8,919

0.82

St. Mary Canal – Drop 5

1,901

7,586

0.75

Vandalia Diversion Dam

326

1,907

0.87

Yellowtail Afterbay Dam

9,203

68,261

3.05

Clark Canyon Dam

3,078

13,689

1.52

Fresno Dam

1,661

6,268

0.88

Gibson Dam

8,521

30,774

1.32

Glen Elder Dam

1,008

3,713

0.81

Helena Valley Pumping Plant

2,626

9,608

1.38

Huntley Diversion Dam

2,426

17,430

1.86

Totals

33,319

168,155

 

Wyoming Facility Name

Installed Capacity

(kW)

Annual Production

(MWh)

Benefit-Cost

Ratio

Willwood Diversion Dam

1,062

6,337

1.1

Gray Reef Dam

2,067

13,059

1.58

Pathfinder Dam

743

5,508

1.23

Totals

3,872

24,904

 

The Benefit-Cost ratio uses a current discount rate of 4.375% to compare estimate construction/operation costs with revenue creation over 50 years – the higher the number the “more economically viable the project.

The March 2012 report serves as a supplement to the May 2011 report, and focusses on smaller facilities and conduits.   The report identified 32 sites in MT and 121 in WY where development is potentially feasible, ranging in size from 2 kW to 3,246 kW.   A full table of MT and WY sites is available in the Site Inventory and Hydropower Energy Assessment of Reclamation Owned Conduits (March 2012) report.  MT sites are under the Great Plains district and WY’s are listed in the Great Plains and Upper Colorado districts.

 

How do you develop a hydropower project at a USBR facility?

For a non-federal entity to construct a hydroelectric facility on a USBR project, a lease of power privilege (LOPP) must be obtained.  A LOPP is a “contractual right given to a non-federal entity to use a Reclamation facility for electric power generation.”  The LOPP must not interfere with primary USBR activities, such as irrigation water delivery or flood control.    Any person or entity can apply for an LOPP, but municipalities and rural electric cooperatives receive preference in the LOPP process.  If an entity expresses interest in a LOPP, then the USBR will initiate a solicitation lasting 90 days to notify other interested parties.  The USBR then has 30 days to determine the most qualified applicant, who is then granted a preliminary lease with a prescribed timeframe to meet the conditions described in the LOPP solicitation.

Developing a hydropower project includes numerous permitting and financing processes, so please contact your local Montana State University or University of Wyoming Extension office to obtain more information.