Chugach granted new 50-year license for hydro project
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved a new 50-year license for Chugach Electric Association to continue to operate its Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project on the Kenai Peninsula. FERC issued its order in August, and after reviewing the conditions of the license, Chugach has accepted it.
The powerhouse for the Cooper Lake project sits on the shore of Kenai Lake near Cooper Landing. The water for the plant comes from a reservoir about 750 feet higher in elevation.
Chugach has owned and operated the plant since its construction in the late 1950s and subsequent commissioning in 1960. In the late 1990s the utility overhauled and upgraded the two turbine-generators at the plant, raising the capacity of the facility to 19.2 megawatts (9.6 Mw per unit). The project produces some of the most economical power on the Chugach system.
The project operated under an initial 50-year license that had been due to expire earlier this year. When Chugach began the relicensing process a few years ago, it made a decision to identify and try to work with as many stakeholders as possible. The utility's goal was to have a process where ideas and concerns could be discussed, considered and if possible, worked out at the conference table. The hope was that Alaskans could resolve most issues before taking the formal application before federal regulators.
In the end, the process proved successful. A settlement agreement was reached that achieved many of the goals of key stakeholders. In return, stakeholders agreed to support Chugach's request for a longer license. The result satisfied most of the parties in the process. For Chugach and its customers, the 50-year license approved by FERC is a major benefit at a time when it is common for existing projects to be granted 30-year licenses.
There are a number of requirements of the new license that Chugach must meet in the next few years, including gaining new permits for the 90-mile transmission line that links the project to Anchorage.
Cooper Lake is one of three hydro projects in Chugach's generation mix. The others are the state-owned Bradley Lake hydroelectric project near Homer and the Eklutna hydroelectric project that Chugach jointly owns with Anchorage Municipal Light & Power and Matanuska Electric Association.
In 2006, 10 percent of the kilowatt-hours Chugach sold came from hydroelectric projects. The other 90 percent came from power plants fueled by natural gas.
Chugach is the largest electric utility in Alaska, providing power for Alaskans throughout the Railbelt through retail, wholesale and economy energy sales.