PacifiCorp Pumped Storage Table

PacifiCorp is eyeing 6,600 MW of pumped storage projects in Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, according to preliminary permits filed with FERC on Oct. 14 that would allow it to evaluate the feasibility of 11 projects.

"It's important that we begin evaluating these sites to determine if they could bring the substantial benefits of clean energy supply and enhanced system reliability to our customers," Mark Sturtevant, PacifiCorp VP of renewable resources, said in a prepared statement.

"Energy storage resources are needed to fill an increasing role in grid modernization to integrate and optimize the dramatic increase in renewable energy resources that serve customers," he added. "Pumped hydroelectric storage has distinct advantages, including longer plant lives and significantly greater energy delivery capability compared with chemical batteries. This makes feasibility studies of these sites an important part of prudent utility planning."

The projects range in capacity from the 300 MW Barn Canyon project proposed for Utah to the 1,800 MW Dry Canyon project proposed for Idaho. The other nine each have nominal capacities of 500 MW.

The utility's 2021 integrated resource plan shows 4,781 MW of storage, co-located with solar, coming on line by 2040. PacifiCorp also expects to have 1,400 MW of standalone battery storage and 500 MW of pumped storage in its portfolio by 2040.

Northwest utilities need to find non-emitting dispatchable resources, in addition to the region's big, legacy hydroelectric projects, that can help meet peak loads, replace retiring coal plants and balance the expected onslaught of new renewable energy projects that will be needed to reach state decarbonization law goals.

For Washington utilities, that means phasing out coal-fired electricity by 2025. By 2030, their portfolios must be greenhouse gas emissions-neutral, which means they may use limited amounts of electricity generated from natural gas if it is offset by other actions. And by 2045, Washington utilities must be generating with 100 percent renewable or non-emitting resources, with no provision for offsets.

In Oregon, the law mandates utilities must reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity sold to Oregon consumers by 80 percent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and by 90 percent by 2035, reaching 100 percent clean energy by 2040.

While utilities have historically shied away from the long lead time, capital-intensive projects, PacifiCorp's interest in 6,600 MW of pumped storage could be a turning point for this established and commercially popular storage technology.

As of 2019, pumped storage hydropower accounted for 93 percent of grid storage in the U.S. and more than 99 percent of electrical energy storage, according to the Department of Energy's 2021 Hydropower Market Report.

There are currently 43 active pumped storage projects in the U.S. providing 22,878 MW of storage capacity. Individual unit capacities at these projects range from 4.2 to 462 MW, according to the NHA report.

And pumped storage projects are starting to show up in Northwest utilities resource request for proposals and IRPs.

Puget Sound Energy received three bids for pumped hydro ranging from 100 to 400 MW and 3,400 to 3,556 MWh from its 2021 RFP. Two of the pumped hydro bids proposed came from projects in Oregon and another bid was for a Montana location.

Portland General Electric has filed an all-source draft RFP that calls for 375 MW of non-emitting dispatchable resources. The utility says that includes pumped storage and it has previously agreed to take into consideration the long lead times needed to develop a pumped storage project The utility's preferred portfolio in its most recent IRP called for the acquisition of 200 MW of pumped storage in 2024 and 2025.

The Northwest has two pumped storage projects fully licensed by FERC—the 400 MW Gordon Butte project in Montana and 393 MW Swan Lake North Project, near Klamath, Ore.

Several other projects are in development, hoping to land a contract with a utility or other power purchaser.

Rye Development, which owns the license to the Swan Lake North Project, continues to work on 1,200 MW Goldendale Pumped Storage Project, a $2 billion project planned for near Goldendale, Wash.

Columbia Basin Hydropower is developing the 500 MW Banks Lake project. The $1.4 billion project calls for two large tunnels bored from Banks Lake down to Lake Roosevelt, just upstream of the existing 314 MW John W. Keys III pumped storage 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.

This project got an assist from the just-passed infrastructure bill, which granted the Bureau of Reclamation sole jurisdiction over the project; usually, that jurisdiction is shared with FERC on non-BuRec portions of any dam project. In addition, the bill sets aside $100 million to "rehabilitate and enhance" the Keys plant.

In July, FERC granted Arlington, Va.-based Daybreak Power a preliminary permit for the 2,650 MW Halverson Canyon Pumped Storage Project, near Creston, Wash., about 35 miles upstream from Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River. The $4.9 billion project could be operational by 2031 and would use renewable energy to pump water from Lake Roosevelt to create an upland reservoir area above the lake (WPW No. 29 [15]).

Boise-based Gridflex is proposing to build 300 MW closed-loop Badger Mountain Pumped Storage Project east of Wenatchee, Wash., according to an application for a three-year preliminary license filed with FERC [P-14892].

This increased interest in pumped storage reflects the demand for storage in general, according to the National Hydropower Association's 2021 pumped storage report.

"The increasing demand for electricity storage from renewables and the electrification of the transportation sector is likely to grow the total amount of electricity storage capacity by five times the current capacity and as much as ten times by 2050," the report says.

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