Xcel unit settles issues over uprated Cabin Creek hydro project

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said in a notice to be published in the April 1 Federal Register that it is taking public comment on a proposed settlement agreement involving Public Service Co. of Colorado over the Cabin Creek Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Project.

The existing project is located on the South Clear Creek and its tributary Cabin Creek in Clear Creek County, Colo. The project, as currently licensed, is located on 267 acres of U.S. Forest Service lands within the Arapaho National Forest.

This final settlement agreement is between Public Service Co. of Colorado (PSCo) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, through its agency the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, participated in the discussions and have expressed support for the settlement, but are not signatories to it.

PSCo is in the process of obtaining a new license from FERC for the continued operation of its Cabin Creek Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Project originally built in 1967. It currently occupies approximately 267 acres of federal land, which will increase to 326 acres with the changes to the project boundary proposed by PSCo, a unit of Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL).

The existing facilities at the project include the Upper Reservoir and Dam, power tunnel and penstocks, Lower Reservoir and Dam, pump-generating plant containing two reversible turbine-generator units, generator step-up transformers, laydown and storage areas, inflow and outflow measurement stations, and access roads. The project currently has a capacity of 300 MW, which would increase to 336.6 MW under an upgrade to the existing units proposed by PSCo.

Since relicensing efforts began in 2008, PSCo has worked closely with resource agencies and interested parties in defining resource issues associated with the Cabin Creek project and in crafting and implementing a comprehensive study program describing these resources and the potential effects of the project.

The proposal to increase the project’s nominal generating capacity from 300 MW to 336.6 MW would be through replacing the existing pump-turbines, overhauling the motor-generators, and performing life extension of other major plant components. 

Said the Xcel website: “Cabin Creek is located high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado at 10,018 feet above sea level. It is a pumped storage plant with a lower and upper reservoir. During periods of peak electricity demand on Xcel Energy’s Colorado system, electricity is generated by releasing water from the upper reservoir through a tunnel, which turns the turbine generators. The water is then stored in the lower reservoir. In the early hours of the morning when electricity use by the company’s customers is low, water is pumped back to the upper reservoir. Cabin Creek has the ability to respond to increases in customer demand quicker than any other plant on our system.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.