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    Run-of-River

    Hydropower in BCA Citizens Guide to UnderstandingApprovals, Impacts and Sustainability

    of Independent Power Projects

    Watershed Watch Salmon Society

    Coquitlam, British Columbia

    www.watershed-watch.org

    wwss@telus.net

    August 2007Watching out for BCs Wild Salmon

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    THE NAME GAME

    Whats in a name? IPPs,

    run-of-river, green power,

    small hydro, are often used

    interchangeably to mean

    the same thing. Indepen-

    dent Power Producers (IPPs)

    may develop various power

    projects in BC. Many are

    run-of-river (see What is

    run-of-river hydropower?),

    and qualify for green power

    status with BC Hydro.

    These run-of-river power

    projects are often small

    hydro, i.e., they have

    relatively small capacities.

    But run-of-river projects can

    also be large, and include

    the proposed Site C dam.

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    Researched and written for Watershed Watch by Tanis Douglas and edited

    by Peter Broomhall and Craig Orr. This Citizens Guide was made possible

    through all the citizens who contribute to the Habitat Conservation TrustFund. Photos graciously provided by the provincial Ministry of Environmen

    the Independent Power Producers of BC (IPPBC), and the BC Conservatio

    Foundation. Watershed Watch also thanks the many experts who provide

    advice and reviews. Graphic design and production by Eye Design Inc.

    Front cover photo: Ashlu river diversion under construction.

    Tom Rankin photo.

    CONTENTS

    What is run-of-river hydropower? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

    FIGURE 1. A typical run-of-river hydro project . . . . . . . . . . . .2How much power can a single project produce? . . . . . . . . . . .3

    What do run-of-river projects mean to BCs Energy Policy?. . .3

    Who approves run-of-river IPP projects? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

    FIGURE 2. Existing and planned (2006)

    IPP projects by type . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

    Is there a problem with parallel

    BC Hydro and agency processes? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

    What are the social costs and benefits from

    run-of-river hydropower? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

    What do we hope to gain from these projects?. . . . . . . . . . . .6

    How do these projects affect river habitat and fish? . . . . . . . .6

    What are the potential land-based impacts?. . . . . . . . . . . . . .7

    What about species at risk? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

    What are cumulative impacts?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

    How can ordinary citizens determine whether

    a project is sustainable? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

    Watershed Watchs Top 10 List of Considerations . . . . . . . . .10

    How can citizens and communities make a difference?. . . . .12

    How can interested citizens educate themselves?. . . . . . . . .12

    Glossary of terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13

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    Run-of-River Hydropower in BC: A Citizens Guide 1

    Development of new energy

    sources comes with trade-offs

    and environmental costseven

    for renewable and clean energyprojects. Because the technol-

    ogy is relatively new, people are

    understandably anxious to learn

    more about these projects, par-

    ticularly about economic and en-

    vironmental costs and benefits.

    Watershed Watch Salmon

    Society recognized the pressing need for a

    Citizens Guide to run-of-river hydropower,and produced this document to help answer

    many of the questions people are now ask-

    ing about these projectsparticularly about

    how run-of-river projects work, how they

    affect the environment, how the projects are

    approved and monitored, and how citizens

    input will be treated.

    Watershed Watchs more technical com-

    panion document, Green Hydro Power:

    Understanding Impacts, Approvals, and Sus-

    tainability of Run-of-River Independent Power

    Projects in British Columbia, is available at

    www.watershed-watch.org.

    Why shouldcitizens care?

    Concern about environmen-

    tal and societal impacts is

    a natural consequence of

    the rush to develop IPP

    projects in British Columbia.

    BC Hydro intends to acquire

    another 10,000 gigawatt

    (GW) hours of power from

    IPP projects by 2015

    (BC Hydro 2006)with much of it from

    run-of-river hydroso the time to beconcerned is now.

    What are Independent PowerProducer (IPP) Projects?

    British Columbias government has promoted

    large-scale development of privately-owned

    small hydro projects and other types of

    power projects since 2002. Most projects

    both built and proposedinvolve run-of-river hydropower, though Independent Power

    Producers (IPPs) are also pursuing other

    options.

    What is this document about?

    Run-of-river hydropower is promoted in British Columbia and elsewhere as an

    environmentally-friendly solution to humanitys ever-increasing energy demands.The rush to implement large-scale run-of-river projects (sometimes called In-

    dependent Power Producer, or, IPP projects) has prompted queries and debate

    about what these projects portend for people and the environment.

    Development of

    new energy sources

    comes with trade-offs

    and environmental

    costseven for

    renewable and clean

    energy projects.

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    2 Run-of-River Hydropower in BC: A Citizens Guide

    What is run-of-river hydropower?

    Run-of-river hydropower diverts some of a

    rivers flow to power electricity-producing

    turbines, returning the water downstream of

    the turbines. Turbines are not installed in the

    river itself. Each project requires significant

    infrastructure, and always includes the follow-ing (as shown in Figure 1):

    n A small dam to create a headpond. This

    headpond does not store water; it merely

    floods a sufficient area to ensure that the

    intake to the penstock is under water.

    n Pipes, known as penstocks, deliver water

    from the headpond to the lower-elevation

    turbines. Penstocks are often three or four

    kilometres long.

    n A powerhouse building that contains one

    or more turbines.

    n A tailrace channel through which the

    diverted water is returned to its river of

    origin.

    n Access roads to the headpond and

    powerhouse.

    n Transmission lines from the powerhouse to

    the nearest BC Hydro transmission line.

    The construction costs of run-of-river pro-

    jects are significantas are their terrestrial

    and aquatic footprints. The section of river

    between the dam and the powerhouse (see

    Figure 1) is sometimes called the diversion

    reach, because significant quantities of water

    are diverted from this section of river. When

    done properly, with care given to footprint

    size and location, these projects can createsustainable green energy that minimizes

    impacts to the surrounding environment and

    nearby communities.

    divers

    ionre

    ach

    substationtransmission linetailrace

    low elevation dam

    headpond

    access road

    powerhouse

    penstock

    FIGURE 1.

    A typical run-of-river hydro project.

    Soren Henrich drawing

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    Run-of-River Hydropower in BC: A Citizens Guide 3

    How much power cana single project produce?

    Most current and proposed projects

    have a maximum capacity of less than

    50 megawatts (MW). Greater capacity

    can be produced by connecting proj-

    ects across rivers and tributaries. The

    potential electric contribution from a

    50 MW project represents only 0.0045

    percent of BC Hydros total installed

    capacity (11,000 MW), but is enough

    to power 25,000 homes (one MW

    powers 500 homes).

    What do run-of-river projectsmean to BCs Energy Policy?

    BC is currently a net importer of electricity

    (though the calculation depends on how elec-

    tricity trading is tracked). If BCs population

    grows according to plans,

    the province will require

    new energy sources in the

    future. The BC govern-

    ments 2002 Energy Plan

    highlighted a need for new

    energy, and promoted a

    goal of energy

    self-sufficiency.

    A major

    policy shift

    required that new energy

    come from the private sector.

    Since 2002, BC Hydros energy

    development role has been

    restricted to purchasing power

    from the private sector, plus

    maintaining BCs heritage assets (the

    large dams currently providing most of the

    provinces power).

    Successful private IPPs receive a 25-year

    purchasing contract from BC Hydro, after

    which they are free to sell throughout western

    North America. Run-of-river projects are cur-

    rently considered the most viable green en-

    ergy in BC because they are the cheapest and

    are perceived to be environmentally benign.

    As a result, the majority of IPP projects are

    for run-of-river hydroelectricity.

    Construction of the penstock at Furry Creek. IPPBC photo.

    Furry Creek powerhouse. IPPBC photo.

    Run-of-river

    projects are

    currently

    considered