Banks Lake Pumped Storage

A cross-section of Columbia Basin Hydropower's proposed Banks Lake pumped storage project. Banks Lake (upper reservoir at left) and Lake Roosevelt (lower reservoir at right) are connected by the Keys Power Canal (blue) and underground power tunnels (black).

The Bureau of Reclamation has issued a request for proposals to develop pumped storage hydroelectric power using Banks Lake and Lake Roosevelt, located in Grand Coulee, Wash.

The project will be subject to the jurisdictions of both BuRec and FERC, the former having authority over the Lake Roosevelt reservoir, and the latter having authority over features outside the lake, including Banks Lake and its dam.

The RFP would consider the project's development under its lease of power privilege (LOPP) process, which allows nonfederal entities to develop electrical power resources on federal water resource projects.

Lake Roosevelt, impounded by Grand Coulee Dam, is part of BuRec's Columbia Basin Project. The reservoir is used for power generation by the dam, flood control and irrigation. Grand Coulee can generate 6,809 MW, while the six pumps and six pump-generators at the co-located John Keys pumped storage plant can together produce 314 MW.

The RFP and LOPP process were triggered in February when Columbia Basin Hydropower formally submitted a notice of intent to apply for the LOPP, Benjamin Miller, a BuRec project manager, told Water Power West.

Bidders have 150 days, until Jan. 28, 2021, to submit proposals, and it will take another 30-60 days to select a winner, if any, according to a notice published Aug. 31 in the Federal Register.

While bidding for the LOPP is part of its process, FERC's process generally involves only a single developer qualifying to build a project via a permitting process.

Also, federal rules require that the "appropriate" power marketing administration—BPA in this case—be given first-right-of-refusal to market the power from the project.

CBH has been pursuing the development of such a project, which it calls Banks Lake, for about eight years, and its efforts have included obtaining a preliminary permit for the FERC-jurisdictional piece. That permit expired in July, after a two-year extension in 2018 (WPW No. 14 [16]).

The project is estimated to cost around $1.4 billion and take six years to build.

Darvin Fales, CBH secretary-manager, told WPW they will now proceed with FERC licensing in tandem with the BuRec LOPP process. Bostonia has been retained as financial advisor on the project, and Kleinschmidt Group as the engineering consultant.

Plans call for two large tunnels to be bored from Banks Lake down to Lake Roosevelt, just upstream of the Keys plant at Grand Coulee Dam. Water would be pumped into Banks Lake during off-peak times, and then run back down to Roosevelt Lake to generate power during the peak times.

The project would have three adjustable-speed pump-generating units totaling 500 MW, although others units could be added to reach up to 1,000 MW. Fales said these details will depend on generation demand and project costs. Generation offtakers will play a big role in this, he said, noting that 500-650 MW seems to be the optimum design target given current demand. "But this could change in two years," he added.

In addition, he said, pumped storage projects are very expensive, so the economy and building budget will also play a role in the project size.

Factors that could change this are the need for more generation as the region's coal-fired plants retire, and requirements of Washington state's Clean Energy Transformation Act for utilities to not use carbon emitting generation.

Columbia Basin Hydropoweris a joint venture of the East Columbia Basin, Quincy-Columbia Basin, and South Columbia Basin irrigation districts. Reclamation transferred responsibilities for a portion of its Columbia Basin Project's irrigation and drainage systems to the districts in a 1968 agreement.

The districts, in turn, created Columbia Basin Hydropower in 1982 as the Grand Coulee Project Hydroelectric Authority to exercise provisions of the 1968 contract allowing hydroelectric developments, and adopted the current name in 2015.

News Editor - Clearing Up

Rick Adair has been with NewsData since 2003, and is news editor for Clearing Up and editor for Water Power West. Previously, he covered environmental and energy issues in the Lake Tahoe area. He has a doctorate in earth sciences.