FERC license will enhance SMUD hydro project

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) a new 50-year license for the continued operation of the Upper American River Project (UARP) -- a 688 MW hydroelectric project. The UARP consists of 11 reservoirs and eight powerhouses spanning an area from the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the foothill communities of the Sacramento valley and provides about 15 percent of SMUD's customers' yearly power needs.

The new license combines enhancement of environmental attributes at existing UARP facilities with a new opportunity to expand the project's contribution to renewable energy development.

"A new 50-year license… allows SMUD to continue to generate large quantities of non-carbon-emitting energy over the next 50 years from our most valuable, lowest-cost power supply," said SMUD General Manager and CEO Arlen Orchard.

The license contains a number of operational changes, recreation upgrades and monitoring programs, as well as a project expansion that will further enhance natural resources in the project area and energy-related value derived from the hydro project.

Under the new license, SMUD will coordinate UARP operations with the downstream Chili Bar Hydroelectric Project, which is operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), resulting in a set of guaranteed whitewater boating flows in the popular 20-mile commercial whitewater boating reach of the South Fork American River -- downstream of PG&E's project. In essence, whitewater boating flows of a specified volume and duration will be provided every weekend for the next 50 years, benefiting the thriving $30 million per year commercial rafting industry in El Dorado County.

The new license also directs SMUD to move forward with the design and potential construction of the proposed Iowa Hill pumped-storage development, which circulates water between a lower and upper reservoir, and would add a significant level of operating flexibility that would help SMUD balance supply and demand on the grid. Further, it would play a crucial role in allowing SMUD to develop larger supplies of intermittent wind and solar power.

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