Developer of 400-MW Montana hydro project holds local meeting

A public meeting was held Aug. 22 in Montana on GB Energy Park LLC’s plans for the 400-MW Gordon Butte Pumped Storage hydro project, with the transcript of that meeting and supporting materials filed Sept. 5 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

FERC on Aug. 26 granted GB Energy Park another preliminary permit on the Gordon Butte project. On May 1, GB Energy Park filed an application for a preliminary permit to study the feasibility of the proposed Gordon Butte Pumped Storage Project, to be located near Martinsdale in Meagher County, Mont. The permit gives the company time to look at the feasibility of the project, with a license application then needed if the decision is to proceed with the project.

The proposed project would include a new powerhouse adjacent to the lower reservoir containing four 100-MW turbine generator units having a total installed capacity of 400 MW; and a new 5.7-mile-long, 500-kV transmission line interconnecting with an existing 500-kV line, or a new 1.1-mile-long, 100-kV transmission line interconnecting to an existing 100-kV line.

Conducting the Aug. 22 public meeting was Carl Borgquist, the president and CEO of Absaroka Energy, the project developer for Gordon Butte.

“Okay, we are here to talk about the build of a closed loop pumped storage project,” he said to start the meeting. “They say a picture is worth a thousand words. When you get a chance after the meeting, if you haven’t already, please take a look at the visual aids we’ve put together. You can see in the middle visual aid a mock-up that we’ve put together of the two reservoirs on top of Gordon Butte. Gordon Butte is about a mile west of Martinsdale, probably you all know that. There’s about 1,000 feet of elevation difference between the top of the butte and the bottom of the butte where we’ll put the lower reservoir.”

Said Borgquist about the need for this project: “All of you know that our grid is now populated in terms of energy production by a disparate number of generation resources: We have coal, gas, renewables. All of this is creating a lot of stress on that operation of the grid. … These facilities are used as a shock absorber and essentially by utilities and other users. Water gets moved back and forth hundreds of times a day in order to keep the grid healthy, manage the transmission assets, and make sure that the lights don’t flicker and stay on and that the system operates reliably. So that’s the purpose of building a facility like this.”

Asked about the initial water supply for this facility, always an issue in the arid western U.S., Borgquist said the developer is in the process of talking to water user associations, the state, and stakeholders in developing a plan for the initial water fill. “At this point, we haven’t finalized anything, and I don’t want to speculate about exactly how that plan will come together,” he added.

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.