The Governor’s Energy Office announced this week the start of its Small Hydro Streamlined Federal Permitting Program in partnership with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The program implements the provisions of a groundbreaking agreement Colorado and FERC signed in late August 2010 aimed at permitting 20 low impact hydropower projects in the next year.
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Together, FERC and Colorado have designed a streamlined permitting process that will utilize Colorado’s expertise to expedite the permitting process and reduce the time needed for FERC to review permit applications. Colorado has received significant attention nationwide for our pioneering efforts in forging this MOU with FERC.
GEO’s Small Hydro Permitting Program is part of the Renewable Energy Development Team (REDT) initiative, which uses American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to support applicants with technical assistance for distributed renewable electrical generation projects.
The Small Hydro Permitting Program will review permit applications and assist small hydro project developers in the preparation of applications that meet FERC requirements. This new process will save time and money for renewable hydropower developers and increase the development of projects throughout Colorado.
The program will exclusively assist developers of low impact projects using existing infrastructure. Low impact projects by definition do not increase stream diversions and do not have adverse effects on water quality, fish passage or cultural resources. Examples of this include municipal water systems, irrigation ditches and water treatment plants. The goal of the program is to add certainty to the process and shorten FERC’s turnaround period to 90 days or less.
HUGE SITE POTENTIAL
Colorado has several hundred sites with a potential of 5 megawatts or less, and a combined generating capacity of more than 1,400 megawatts. This is equal to the production capacity of two new large coal plants such as the new plant in Pueblo and can provide enough around the clock, clean renewable power to power 650,000 homes.
In stark contrast with other renewable energy technologies, virtually all hydroelectric projects developed in the US must be permitted at the federal level; FERC manages the permitting process. However, in spite of the enormous potential in Colorado, over the past 30 years, only 24 projects have received a FERC small hydro permit in the state.
GEO expects that the first application to FERC will be filed in late April 2011 and the first permit issued by FERC in late July. The program will end after 20 project applications have been filed. At the end of the program FERC and Colorado will assess the outcomes and look for ways in which the lessons learned can be implemented in FERC’s regular processes.
The application for this program is now online at www. RechargeColorado.com. Look for the Renewable Energy Development Team link, on the “Programs, Policies & Initiatives” section of our website.