Thursday, December 9, 2010

Boosting Hydroelectric Capacity

Approaches to Boost Hydroelectric Capacity in North America

Many companies throughout North America are increasing hydro capacity by retrofitting and/or expanding existing projects, adding powerhouses at non-powered dams, and installing fish-friendly turbines. These methods are attractive because they avoid environmental concerns, and much of this work is eligible for federal funding.

In the U.S., a national focus on boosting renewable electricity generation has created a flood of project financing and research work.

One example is Alcoa, which has nearly 3,000 MW of capacity to provide for the needs of its smelting and refining system, as well as regional wholesale markets. Among its facilities is 122-MW Cheoah in North Carolina, which was poised to undergo a retrofit when the federal government passed the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In August 2010, Alcoa resumed construction on the $120 million modernization after securing $12.9 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).1

Work on this project began in mid-2008 but stalled. "The economic crisis hit us hard, and we had to put it on hold," says Bill Bunker, vice president of hydropower at Alcoa Power Generating. "Thanks to the DOE money, we are back on." {read rest}

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