GB Energy reports progress on 400-MW hydro project in Montana

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on June 5 said it is seeking comment and any competing offers related to GB Energy Park LLC’s May 1 application for a preliminary permit for the 400-MW Gordon Butte Pumped Storage project in Montana.

GB Energy Park is seeking another preliminary permit for this project, which would cover a 36-month period, to replace an expired preliminary permit that was issued by the commission in May 2010. A preliminary permit, if granted, allows a company to explore development of a project, without outside competition, while it decides on whether to file for a FERC license for the project.

The project would be a new development located in Meagher County, on private land owned by 71 Ranch LP. This hydroelectric facility would consist of an upper and lower off-stream, closed-loop reservoir complex and would include no new or existing river impoundment. The upper reservoir would be located at the north end of the top of Gordon Butte and the lower reservoir would be located adjacent to the northwest toe of the Butte.

The reservoirs would be connected by approximately 4,000 linear feet of 25-foot in diameter, steel-lined tunnel. A powerhouse would be located on the south side of the lower reservoir and would contain four turbine generator units of 100 MW each.

The water source for the project would be: the utilization of irrigation water from 71 Ranch coming out of Cottonwood Creek; water from the Martinsdale Reservoir located one mile to the east of the project; and/or water from a private reservoir located near the project.

Existing 100-kV and 500-kV transmission lines are within five miles of the project. The project may interconnect into one or both of the lines.

The 500-kV transmission line located near the project is co-owned by NorthWestern Energy, Puget Sound Power, PacifiCorp, Portland General Electric and Avista Corp. The interconnection into the 500-kV line would consist of a new substation at the proposed powerhouse and approximately 5.7 miles of new single circuit 500-kV line running to the south. As an alternative, the project may interconnect into the 100-kV line owned by NorthWestern Energy just to the north of the project, which would require about 1.1 miles of new 100-kV line.

The proposed project would have an average annual generation of 1,300 gigawatt-hours.

Company says this project can even out intermittent wind energy output

“The project would fulfill the public interest by enhancing the value of water resources in the region,” said the May 1 application from the company for the new preliminary permit. “Pumped storage hydropower allows for rapid response to shifts in power demands. The project would create a reliable source for generation and storage of power that would provide additional peaking capacity to the electrical grid and allow more effective operation of regional wind power generating facilities.”

In its last project update under the old preliminary permit, filed with the commission on April 30, the company reported recent progress in various areas, including:

  • In February 2013, it secured McMillen LLC as licensing consultant to assist with the FERC licensing process.
  • On April 2, 2013, it met with FERC staff in Washington, DC, to present a project update and discuss licensing strategies.
  • On April 8, 2013, it met with the newly-elected Montana governor’s staff as well as the head of the governor’s Economic Development Office for briefing on the project and to prepare for meetings with agency directors.
  • On April 12, 2013, the company held meetings with the new directors for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. It made plans with these directors for follow-up meetings in May 2013 to discuss potential environmental and other critical study needs for development of the FERC license. On this date the company also met with the State Director of the Montana Historical Society about the project.
  • On April 29, 2013, the company submitted a Notice of Intent to file a license application with the FERC, including a request to use the Traditional Licensing Process (TLP) and Preliminary Application Document (PAD).
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.