California releases results from snowpack survey

The California Department of Water Resources announced the results from the third of five surveys confirming the impacts associated with the continuing dry winter conditions.

Overall, the average water content of California’s snowpack was 26 percent of the expected April 1 normal and continued to remain significantly below normal. The relative composition of the Sierra Nevada snowpack was 28 percent of April 1 normal for the northern Sierras, 26 percent of the April 1 normal for the central Sierras, and 33 percent of the April 1 normal for the southern Sierras.

During normal water conditions, January and Feb. are usually wet. However, the dearth of winter storms has caused state and Federal water managers to announce that projected water deliveries for the upcoming water year will be substantially below normal contract maximums. Although March affords an opportunity for chance for more precipitation, both the state and Federal water projects have announced reduced deliveries for the upcoming water year.

The reduced water deliveries are expected to result in reduced hydropower generation output for the Central Valley and State Water Projects. The impact of reduced water deliveries are, however, somewhat mitigated by last year’s above-normal precipitation which resulted in higher-than- average starting reservoir storage levels.

Large hydro projects could apply to California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard

In February, the California legislature introduced Assembly Bill 1771 Renewable energy resources: hydroelectric generation, which, if enacted, would revise what size hydropower plant can contribute to an energy service provider’s renewable portfolio standard and how many megawatts can be counted.

Currently, only small hydropower plants qualify to be used as a renewable energy source under California’s 33-percent RPS requirement, and the maximum hydropower contribution is 30 megawatts. 

If enacted in its present form, the hydropower plant size and megawatt limits would be eliminated, which could increase interest in Western’s Sierra Nevada region’s Central Valley Project. The CVP’s 11 hydropower plants produced 5,369 gigawatt-hours in Fiscal Year 2011 for preference power customers in California.  

The bill is tentatively scheduled to be heard in committee March 22.