Hydro Rehab, Large and Small

Maintaining hydroelectric facilities in good working order is critical for several reasons. Hydroelectric facilities are major power producers for our nation and will only become more important as renewable energy standards become more stringent. Moreover, hydroelectric facilities that fall into poor repair can pose significant hazards to life and property. Across the nation and the world, owners and operators of hydro projects, both large and small, are engaging in rehabilitation to make their facilities better, safer, and more efficient. 

In our cover story, we speak with Martin Sintak, a founder, owner, and managing partner of the Czech hydroelectric company Mavel, about the Malczyce Power Plant, a new low-head power plant on the Oder River in Poland. 

We also speak with Del Shannon, a principal and senior vice president at Schnabel Engineering, who tells us about the many, varied dam rehabilitation projects undertaken by his firm and about new trends in risk analysis and monitoring. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also in the middle of a major, multiyear rehabilitation of its biggest-in-the-nation hydroelectric fleet. We get an insider’s view on that effort from Steven Miles and Daniel Rabon, respectively the director of the Army Corps’ Hydroelectric Design Center and the Army Corps’ national hydropower business line manager. 

We also feature the story of the rehabilitation of a small hydro unit in New England. Rehabilitating its century-old penstock, which now lies under a road and along the foundations and under the deck of an operating restaurant, was no easy task, but sliplining the penstock with HOBAS pipe provided a solution. Marty Greco, the new owner of the hydro project, and Paul Becht, an engineer who worked on the project, explain. 

Max Silva of A&W Maintenance tells us about one of his company’s recent rehab projects. Two existing penstocks at a hydroelectric facility were lined with a Warren Environmental epoxy system to transform them into fish-passage structures. 

Finally, in our Water Law section, we hear from Chuck Sensiba and Elizabeth McCormick of law firm Troutman Pepper about elements of federal regulatory law that are relevant to hydroelectric rehabilitation work. Notably, under section 36 of the Federal Power Act, which was added to the law in 2018, owners and operators of facilities licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can apply to have the investments and improvements they have made during a previous license term count toward a longer license term at relicensing. 

Rehab work ranges from replacing the generators in huge dams to making use of existing penstocks in small hydro projects. When done with care and foresight, it ensures that our nation’s hydro fleet will continue to be a source of reliable, green energy for decades to come. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Hydro Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.