Sunday, February 15, 2009

Crown Hydro: A Blast From the Past

Two Putt Tommy and Political Muse have been working tirelessly on the issues with Crown Hyrdo and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board which got me wondering about it.

Muse said last week;
What we need to understand is that this project was granted a FERC license in 1999 which in my understanding is one of the most rigorous processes for examining energy production proposals. Those weighing in included the US Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Park Service. My hope is that the Minneapolis Park Board has a far more legitimate reason for opposing this project than petty political gamesmanship. What information does the Park Board have which could possibly trump the combined expertise of all the aforementioned organizations?
So in patented Blueman fashion, I wanted to take a dig at it.

Even in September 1997, the project was garnering a positive nod.
Hydroelectric-plant proposal garners a nod; Regulatory officials have made a favorable environmental assessment of the Mississippi River electricity project. Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) September 25, 1997, Metro Edition

Despite objections by Minneapolis and the city's Park and Recreation Board, federal officials have determined that the environment would not be significantly affected by a hydroelectric power plant on the Mississippi River on West River Parkway.

Those officials also recommend that any federal license issued for construction and operation of the small plant should require measures to protect natural resources and enhance recreational opportunities along the riverfront.

That would include preserving the scenic panorama created by water cascading over St. Anthony Falls. That requirement would alleviate a key concern of Minneapolis and Park Board officials, who have feared that the project would divert so much water from the river above the falls that it would harm the area's aesthetic qualities.

The favorable environmental assessment is a major boost for Crown Hydro Co. of Minneapolis, which is seeking a license for the $ 5.5 million project. The assessment was prepared by the technical staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will decide whether to issue the license.

A commission spokeswoman, Celeste Miller, said Wednesday that it has rarely denied a license for a small energy project that has received a favorable environmental assessment. It's uncertain when the panel will act on Crown Hydro's request, she said.

Minneapolis and Park Board officials said they are reviewing the assessment, which they received copies of this week.

Reviving an old system

Crown Hydro proposes to draw water from the Mississippi, through a canal and into a century-old power system that lies buried under the Crown Roller Mill building. That system would be restored by Crown Hydro, a three-man partnership.

One of the partners, Glen Olsen, said the environmental assessment is "a confirmation of what we've said all along: This is a positive project and will be beneficial to the public."

Crown Hydro also proposes to build walkways and other facilities to attract tourists to the restored power system. Since 1821 the power of St. Anthony Falls has been used for industrial purposes - generating electricity, milling grain and sawing lumber - and the company says its operation would complement the ambitious city-Park Board program to revitalize the riverfront.

Olsen said the company hopes to begin producing energy in January 1999, assuming it obtains the necessary government approval.

In addition to the federal license, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources would have to approve a permit allowing Crown Hydro to draw water from the river. Minnesota law prohibits the DNR from issuing the permit if it would create conflicts with existing water users.

That includes Northern States Power Co., which already operates a hydroelectric plant at St. Anthony Falls. NSP has no objections to Crown Hydro's proposed plant, which would generate 3.4 megawatts of electricity, or enough to supply more than 3,000 houses.

Federal officials said Crown Hydro wouldn't have any problems selling its electricity, whether it be to NSP or another utility. The projected regional demand for electricity could easily absorb the total output of Crown Hydro's small plant.

Also, such "green" power is renewable and nonpolluting, which makes it preferable to the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels.

Bob Mattson, a Park Board spokesman, predicted that Crown Hydro will get a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

"This can be a win-win situation for both the developer and the Park Board," he said. "But we still have to negotiate an agreement [with Crown Hydro] on how they will use some of our property for their development."
And now more than a decade later, the fight continues.

Why such staunch opposition to a project that would bring "green jobs" and renewable energy sources to such a progressive area? It seems like this is a common sense sort of thing, yet it languishes on as the NIMBY crowd whines continually.

We'll follow Two Putt and Muse as they continue to bring the Crown Hydro project to light.

Stay tuned...


Scotty said...

Suggest you to provide link to

and encourage your readers to use the Energy Environment Forum and get a link back !
energyenvironmentforum at gmail dot com

eric zaetsch said...

Blue Man - Try to interview someone in the power business. Bob Olson, who at least knows wind energy might know more.

My understanding is wind and solar are irregular due to energy source inconsistency.

Nukes, you get them in an optimal steady state and the goal is to have sustained operation that way. Even if control rods are inserted to stop fission, residual heat from fission products decay is there and to be dealt with.

Coal takes startup and ramp down time, there is need for spinning reserve, and microturbines are costly to operate but quick on and off the grid for demand fluctuation.

That leaves hydro. With drought constraints at times, this is one of the best RESERVE power options.

Drop water, spin the turbines to spin the generators, power is out.

No water, no power out. Easy to match to running nuke and coal capacity to tailor to demand.

However, if the Crown Hydro promoters project near-100% operation, where's the grid management position on that?

Does Xcel Energy use the hydro power there - downtown on the river where they already have hydro capacity running and not projected - to trim output to match demand fluctuation? If so it seems that suggests that Crown Hydro spilling water 24/7 is less than optimal from a grid standpoint, but okay for promotional return on investment.

What's the story that way?

Can we get beyond "Green is Good" retoric to what influences will this small fish have on the big grid management pond?

Just a thought.