Goldendale Pumped Storage Project

Rendering of the Goldendale Pumped Storage Project.

The developers of the proposed 1,200 MW Goldendale pumped-storage project on June 23 filed a final license application, and asked FERC to acknowledge that it qualifies for "expedited treatment" under the recently passed America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.

Following regulations in place before passage of the act, the off-stream, closed-loop pumped-storage project—to be sited adjacent to the Columbia River near Goldendale, Wash.—could have faced five to seven years or longer navigating the licensing process. Under the new provisions, the process is capped at two years.

"To the Applicant's knowledge," the Goldendale final license application is the "first opportunity for the Commission" to use the expedited procedure, Erik Steimle, VP of project development at Rye Development, told Water Power West in an email. Rye has partnered with National Grid in a joint venture named PPF Project 101 to develop the energy storage facility [P-14861].

The developers say the project qualifies because it will have low impacts on existing water flows and protected species; will not use natural water features as reservoirs; and will rely only on temporary withdrawals from surface waters or groundwater—to be provided by the Klickitat County PUD-for the initial fill and periodic recharging needed for project operation.

Based on the application's schedule, the license will be issued by June 2022; construction will start in late 2024 after two years of pre-construction activity; commissioning will start in June 2027; and the facility will enter full commercial operations by September 2029 with three units that each use 400-MW variable-speed, pump-turbine generators.

And even as FERC starts reviewing the application, the developers have started work on the preliminary (30 percent) design, slated to last through 2021.

Steimle told Water Power West that the project has so far "encountered fairly limited delays" due to COVID-19 impacts, but "will keep reassessing this as time goes on."

The project aims to provide balancing services and renewable energy flexible capacity to utilities in the Pacific Northwest (and "potentially" to California) to decarbonize the electric power system cost-effectively, the application said.

The facility's estimated annual generation will be 3,500 GWh, based on running eight hours a day, seven days a week, and its design storage capacity will be approximately 14,745 MWh. That capacity will allow it to generate 1,200 MW for 12 hours.

The project site is mostly in Klickitat County, Wash., but includes a portion in Sherman County, Ore., where transmission lines spanning the Columbia River will be located.

The construction will include a lower reservoir adjacent to the Columbia River and an upper reservoir on a bluff, providing 2,360 feet of gross head for the generators. The powerhouse will be located underground between the upper and lower reservoirs. The two reservoirs will be entirely on private land.

The project cost is estimated at $2.9 billion, about 9.5 percent higher than a 2016 estimate of $2.5 billion. For an expected 45 years of operation, the average annual cost of operation is about $279 million.

Project economics were estimated by assuming long-term capacity contracts with utilities in the Northwest and California at prices ranging between $250 and $275/kW-year. Given a capacity factor of about 34 percent, this translates to around $85 and $95/MWh, "which is very competitive as compared to the expected battery power prices" of $180 to $250/MWh, according to the application.

In addition, the developers said, the Goldendale facility can send and receive power via a direct-current intertie, giving it access to the southern California and Nevada markets, allowing utilities there to optimize capacity in two major power markets on the West Coast, Mid-C and SP-15. In this case, annual expected revenues would be $300 million to $330 million, from bringing around 3.6 million MWh per year into these two markets.

The application also responds to a report submitted to FERC in March by American Rivers, Friends of the White Salmon River, and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club, stating that the Goldendale project would be "extremely unlikely" to be "financially viable."

The report is flawed, the application says, because it is based on a "misunderstanding of wholesale electricity markets," and the "operational capabilities and economic value streams provided by pumped storage."

Also, the report "failed to mention the policy-driven evolution of the electricity market in the Pacific Northwest, which has been underway for nearly a decade now."

The developers said "clean energy legislation in the Pacific Northwest drives the need for long-duration energy storage resources."

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.