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US hydro capacity additions total about 600 MW since beginning of 2016

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US hydro capacity additions total about 600 MW since beginning of 2016

About 600 MW of hydroelectric generating capacity was added to the U.S. grid between Jan. 1, 2016, and the end of the third quarter of this year, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis.

As of the end of the third quarter of 2017, 205 MW of hydroelectric generating capacity had been added in the U.S. this year. About 400 MW were added in all of 2016. More than 80,840 MW of hydro power plant capacity was available in the U.S. at the end of the third quarter of 2017.

Through another 435 MW of hydro capacity are under construction and expected to come into operation. The U.S. Department of Energy in 2014 said in a report that the nation's waterways held the potential for another 65,000 MW of hydro generation.

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Completed projects

Since the beginning of 2016, the largest project completed by generating capacity encompasses two units at the Wanapum plant in Kittitas County, Wash., totaling 244 MW. The 10-unit plant, now 1,080 MW, is owned by the Grant County Public Utility District. The two new units are part of a long-term refurbishment project that began in 2004 and has an overall estimated cost of $300 million.

The second-largest project completed was the Meldahl Hydropower Project, a run-of-river project in the Ohio River and located in Bracken County, Ky. The 105-MW project, made up of three 35-MW units, was completed in April 2016. The project's ownership is shared between the city of Hamilton, Ohio, with a 51.4% stake, and American Municipal Power Inc., with the remaining 48.6%. American Municipal Power has also since early 2016 completed three other run-of-river hydro projects in the Ohio River in its "Phase I" project, providing power to 79 member utilities.

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Announced projects

The largest new project announced since the beginning of 2016 is the Tuttle Creek Dam Hydroelectric Project (Wattera) located at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Tuttle Creek Dam on the Big Blue River in Kansas. According to a May 9 order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granting a preliminary permit, the project is estimated to generate an annual output of 64,643 MWh of electricity, with a capacity of 12 MW. This project is owned by Hamilton, Mont.-based, Watterra Energy LLC.

Projects in active development

A total of 1,350 MW of hydro capacity is scheduled to come online in the U.S. through 2021. Roughly 60% of the capacity is in the early development stage.

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S&P Global Market Intelligence considers a project in "advanced development" when it meets at least two of the following five criteria: necessary permits have been obtained; financing has been obtained; a power purchase agreement has been signed; an engineering, procurement and construction contractor has been signed; turbines have been secured. The "under construction" status is assigned to a project when a company has broken ground, and does not include site preparation. This includes activities such as pouring the foundations for the building structures and erecting framework. A project's likelihood of coming to completion increases when it moves on to the late stages of development.

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The largest planned hydro project in late stages of development is located at the Wanapum plant in Washington state. Units 5 and 16 at the plant are in the under construction stage with an aggregate capacity of 244 MW and are expected to come online between 2018 and 2020. They are part of a long-term refurbishment of the entire plant.

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The second-largest hydro project in the late stages of development is the 96-MW Priest Rapids addition in Yakima County, Wash. The project is owned by Grant County Public Utility District and is expected to come online in November. It is the start of a multi-turbine replacement at a 1950s-era plant and is scheduled to take about a decade to complete.

Also, Duke Energy Corp. late in 2016 won approval from Indiana regulators to upgrade three run-of-river units at its Markland plant on the Ohio River. The existing units are 50 years old and produce 45 MW. The refurbishment is expected to take three years, between 2018 and 2020, and cost $152 million. The upgraded units will be able to produce 63 MW.

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