The Carmen-Smith Hydropower Project is a network of three dams, three reservoirs, and two power-generating plants, located just a few miles downstream from the headwaters of the McKenzie River. For more than 50 years, Carmen-Smith has reliably served our customers with low-cost hydropower. The plant remains valuable as a carbon-free generation resource that can ramp up and down to meet customers' peak energy needs. In other words, Carmen-Smith operates as a system to store water overnight, and produces power during high usage times when we would otherwise be buying power on the wholesale market during those more expensive hours.
In 2019, we acquired a new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). This 40-year license allows us to continue generating hydropower at Carmen. In return for our license to operate, we will be enhancing and managing natural resources and rebuilding public recreation facilities in the area. Much of the initial work will take place over the coming decade, but we will continue to manage certain natural resources for the duration of our license.
Here are just a few projects we are working on:
Please click here to find out more about our environmental stewardship at Carmen Smith.
In 2016, we started replacing old infrastructure and outdated technology and this work will likely continue through 2022. These projects include:
The overall project economics of operating Carmen-Smith are just about break-even over the life of our 40-year license. However, there are numerous non-economic benefits for EWEB and our customers to retain ownership of this project. First, Carmen is operated as a carbon-free peaking power plant, helping us meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Then there is the project's location near the headwaters of the McKenzie River. Nearly 200,000 area residents rely on the McKenzie for their drinking water. In our role as an electric and water utility, we are heavily invested in protecting the watershed for drinking water quality. Having a physical presence at the headwaters and maintaining local control of the facility is consistent with our watershed stewardship role.
Another benefit is the value of local generation, particularly as we consider the potential of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake or other regional disaster.
Carmen is one of three EWEB-owned hydroelectric plants on the McKenzie River. Resiliency is a key strategic priority, and local generation is an essential component of that plan. We are working on building a "resilient spine" in our electric transmission system. The idea is to enable us to move power from local generating resources to critical facilities, such as hospitals and public safety agencies, in an emergency. With about 110 megawatts of capacity, Carmen-Smith plays a significant role in this concept.
When it was built in 1963, Carmen-Smith was a source of immense community pride. Its construction represented great strides in engineering and technical advancement in the field of energy production. Looking forward, our investments will demonstrate how to balance the community's desire for clean energy with our responsibility to protect and enhance natural resources for future generations. With the help of our partners, this can be Carmen-Smith's lasting legacy.
Our 40-year operating license at Carmen Smith includes 10 natural resource and recreation management plans and over 300 individual commitments.