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Collection of topical news stories from around the world for July 2017

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New Development

Argentinian council approves 1,310-MW Nestor Kirchner-Jorge Cepernic complex

Argentina’s Federal Energy Council voiced unanimous support in June for construction of the US$5 billion 1,310-MW Nestor Kirchner-Jorge Cepernic complex planned for the Santa Cruz River in Argentina.

Argentina’s Energy and Mining Ministry recently published a new environmental impact study for the project after the Supreme Court of Argentina suspended project work in December 2016, citing insufficient environmental evaluation and consultation with area residents.

Local reports indicate the Kirchner and Cepernic projects will be located about 80 km apart and have capacities of 950 MW and 360 MW, respectively. Kirchner is expected to feature a 75-meter-high concrete-faced rockfill dam and Cepernic a 43-meter-high dam.

The project is being developed by Represas Patagonia, a joint venture between Argentine firms Electroingenieria and Hidrocuyo and China’s Gezhouba Group. China is financing the project’s entire investment cost.

Pumped Storage

South Australia has 185 potential sites for pumped storage hydro

There are 185 sites in South Australia that are potentially suitable for off-river pumped hydro storage, according to the results of research at The Australian National University. The sites are gathered into the South Australian Pumped Hydro Atlas.

South Australia is the state with the largest proportion of variable renewable electricity (wind and solar PV). This is expected to increase into the 50% to 100% range in the coming years. The team at ANU says pumped storage development “may help secure Australia’s electricity grid.”

The sites were found using algorithms with defined search criteria within a geographic information system platform. This platform was used to find detailed information, such as head, reservoir areas, and storage capacity. Mining pits have not yet been analyzed.

Researchers say the 185 upper reservoir sites identified would require detailed due diligence involving land ownership, engineering, hydrological, environmental and other considerations. They are developing a cost model that will determine the least cost option for tunneling between two reservoirs, and therefore the location of the lower reservoir.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is providing $449,000 support for an ANU-led feasibility study aimed at developing a nation-wide atlas of potential off-river pumped hydro storage sites.

Dams & Civil Structures

Oroville Dam situation leads state to order assessment of more than 50 dams

The California Division of Safety of Dams is requesting that dam owners in the state assess dam appurtenant structures, including spillways, to confirm they meet minimum safety standards.

This is part of the Spillway Re-Evaluation Program, which was established in 2017. This “on-going screening process and re-evaluation of spillways at dams” starts with those that potentially pose the highest hazard, DSOD says. The evaluation includes the assessment of:

  • The spillway’s design and construction and geologic attributes while concurrently reviewing the dam owner’s maintenance and inspection program
  • The spillway’s historical performance
  • Any previous spillway repairs

DSOD is “working closely with dam owners to expedite the development of the required assessments and restore any known areas of disrepair.”

Dam owners have received a spillway notification letter as part of DSOD’s first phase condition assessment request:

“As a result of the recent major incidents at Oroville Dam, which led to significant damage and erosion of the Service and Emergency Spillways, Governor Brown issued a plan to bolster the State’s dam safety program. To strengthen the State’s inspection program, the Governor has ordered detailed evaluations of dam appurtenant structures, such as spillways. This new review is being expedited for dams that have large spillways and structures similar to Oroville Dam.”

Small Hydro

1-MW Elora hydroelectric powerhouse enters commercial operation in Ontario

The 1-MW Elora small hydroelectric facility is beginning commercial operation, having been commissioned earlier in 2017 on the Grand River in Ontario, Canada.

The powerhouse, in Wellington County, contains a single crossflow turbine-generator unit supplied by Ossberger. The unit is able to operate from 5% to 100% of its total capacity, Ossberger says, which will result in higher annual energy production for the site compared with choosing a smaller unit. In addition, the unit is installed well above the tailwater level, thus saving on excavation costs, according to Ossberger.

The run-of-river facility was developed by Shaman Power, and electricity is being sold to Ontario Power Authority under a fixed-term power purchase agreement.

Business and Finance

Vattenfall to cut up to 60% of German hydroelectric power workforce by 2019

Swedish state-owned utility Vattenfall has announced a plan to restructure its hydroelectric power division in Germany by the end of 2019.

The program will “include a significant reduction in the number of jobs,” the company said in a release, and is the result of a study that began October 2016.

According to Vattenfall, up to 60% of its 420 full-time staff in its German hydro operation could be affected by the reduction through the end of 2019.

Vattenfall’s German assets include eight pumped storage projects, with the two largest being the 1,060-MW Goldisthal and 1,050-MW Markersbach facilities. The plants have a cumulative output capacity of about 2,800 MW, of which 2,500 MW is and will remain available.

“Due to the price development on the German electricity market and the regulatory framework for existing storage facilities, Vattenfall’s pumped storage power plants have been under considerable economic pressure for years,” said Torbjorn Wahlborg, head of business area generation.

The company said the overhaul will cover several areas, including:

  • Optimizing plant operations;
  • Placing some plants into a “transitional” operational mode, meaning that it is operable but not always ready to operate;
  • Restructuring to focus on securing core competences; and
  • Further reducing planned spending.

“The measures that are now being introduced are major economic challenge for all stakeholders, but they have become the only realistic chance to keep most of our German pumped storage plants in long-term operation,” Wahlborg said.

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