The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has announced that Alcoa’s 350MW Tapoco hydroelectric project in the US has earned LIHI’s Low Impact Certification – the first project to receive an eight-year certification in recognition of meeting special watershed management criteria.
The Tapoco project consists of four power houses and four dams in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. Located on the Little Tennessee and Cheoah rivers, the project is owned and operated by Alcoa Power Generating Inc. It is the largest project on the East Coast to earn certification.
Earlier this year, the project was relicensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a 40-year period.
‘We take great pleasure in certifying this facility and congratulate Alcoa,’ said Richard Roos-Collins, chair of LIHI’s Governing Board. ‘This decision should send a clear message that even large hydropower facilities can operate with low impacts to key natural resources, and offer enhanced value to shareholders and customers alike.’
The LIHI certified its first plant in March 2001. The Institute’s voluntary certification program is designed to help consumers identify environmentally sound, low impact hydro power facilities for emerging green energy markets.
The Tapoco project meets LIHI’s eight environmentally rigorous low impact criteria addressing river flows, water quality, fish passage and protection, watershed health, endangered species protection, cultural resources, recreation use and access, and whether or not the dam itself has been recommended for removal. Tapoco successfully completed LIHI’s formal review process, which includes a public comment period, review by an independent technical consultant, consultations with state and federal natural resource agencies, and evaluation by the LIHI Governing Board, including leaders in the river conservation and renewable energy fields. The Board’s vote to certify the Tapoco project was unanimous.
With the certification of the Tapoco project, the Institute has certified low impact hydro projects in 14 states with an installed capacity of over 1450MW.