California PUC to hold Jan. 16 workshop on pumped storage hydro

The California Public Utilities Commission plans to hold a Jan. 16 workshop in San Francisco on the potential for pumped storage hydro to meet the state’s future energy needs, including as a way to even out intermittent renewable energy production from sources like wind and solar.

The commission in October 2013 directed CPUC staff to hold a technical workshop to “further explore the operational characteristics and uses for pumped storage projects.” The Jan. 16 workshop will focus on understanding the current state of pumped hydro storage in California, barriers to the development of pumped hydro, the potential uses and benefits of pumped hydro, and potential regulatory steps to address barriers and the future of pumped hydro storage in California.

“The CPUC seeks to gain an understanding of the variety of issues that face pumped storage today and in the future, as well as an understanding of what the current state of pumped hydro is in California,” said a CPUC notice. “In order to better understand the totality of these issues, this workshop will explore a range of the issues facing pumped storage in California, including those barriers outside of the CPUC’s jurisdiction.”

The legislature has passed a bill establishing a target of 1,325 MW of energy storage to be procured by Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric by 2020, with installations required no later than the end of 2024, and sets a schedule for procurement of energy storage. The decision directs these utilities to file separate procurement applications containing a proposal for their first energy storage procurement period by March 1, 2014. 

A number of pumped storage projects have been proposed in the last couple of years in and around California. For example, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Dec. 19, 2013, issued notices about three preliminary permits applied for earlier in the year by Hydro Green Energy LLC for pumped storage hydro projects that would total 3,921 MW of capacity. Each project involves pumping water out of the Pacifiic Ocean to an upland reservoir, then releasing the water at high power demand periods back into the ocean to generate peaking power. Pumped storage is the most proven technology to store power during low demand periods and to even out the intermittent output from solar and wind projects.

Those proposed projects are:

  • Hydro Green Energy applied for the Vandenberg West Project to be located near Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, Calif. The project would include seven 193-MW, reversible variable-speed pump-turbines and would have annual generation of approximately 3,952 gigawatt-hours.
  • Hydro Green Energy applied for the Vandenberg East Project, also to be located near Vandenberg Air Force Base. This project includes six 223-MW, reversible variable-speed pump-turbines and its estimated annual generation would be around 3,911 gigawatt-hours.
  • Hydro Green Energy proposed the Pendleton South Project to be located near Camp Pendleton South in San Diego County, Calif. This would include eight 154-MW, reversible variable-speed pump-turbines and its annual generation would be about 3,607 gigawatt-hours.

There have been other California projects that have gotten FERC updates in recent months, including:

  • BPUS Generation Development LLC, an indirect subsidiary of Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners LP, applied in November 2013 at FERC for a two-year extension of its about-to-expire preliminary permit on a 280-MW pumped storage project in California. This is called the Mulqueeney Ranch Pumped Storage Project. The permit allows the company the exclusive right to explore the feasibility of this project. The project will be located on private land near the City of Tracy, Calif.
  • FERC said in October 2013 that it will take comment for 60 days on an August 2013 application from Hydro Green Energy for a preliminary permit on a 1,270-MW pumped storage hydro project in California. The Fort Ross Project is to be located near the town of Jenner, Sonoma County, Calif.
  • EDF Renewable Energy reported to FERC in October 2013 that it has taken over sole control of the 1,000-MW Swan Lake North pumped storage hydro project along the California-Oregon line and is now working on a power interconnect deal with PacifiCorp. EDF said it originally was a joint venture partner with Swan Lake Holdings LLC on this project, but it became the sole owner as of July 2013. The project is to be located near Klamath Falls in Klamath County, Ore., and Newell in Modoc County, Calif.
  • Bison Peak Pumped Storage LLC told FERC in June 2013 that it is making progress on the 500 MW-1,000 MW Bison Peak Pumped Storage Project, to located in the Tehachapi Mountains south of Tehachapi in Kern County, Calif.
  • The San Diego County Water Authority applied in June 2013 at FERC for a preliminary permit on the up to 500-MW San Vicente Pumped-Storage Water Power Project.
  • Pacific Gas and Electric told FERC in May 2013 that it is making progress on developing the 300 MW-1,200-MW Mokelumne Pumped Storage hydro project in California. In December 2011, the commission had approved PG&E for a successive preliminary permit on this project, which allowed feasibility work to continue. The proposed project would be located on the North Fork Mokelumne River, Bear River and Cole Creek, in Amador and Calaveras counties, Calif.
  • Eagle Crest Energy told FERC in 2013 that it is making progress on various fronts with the 1,300-MW Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Project. This project would use two existing mining pits for water storage, which are part of the former Eagle Mountain mine near the town of Eagle Mountain, Calif.

There are also several projects located close to California, including:

  • The Rose Creek Hydro LLC affiliate of Gridflex Energy LLC applied in September 2013 at FERC for a preliminary permit for the 250-MW Rose Creek Pumped Storage Project in Mineral County, Nev.
  • The International Consortium of Energy Managers told FERC in August 2013 that it is making progress on the 450-MW Blue Diamond Pumped Storage hydro project in Nevada.
  • Free Flow Power told FERC in August 2013 that it is making progress on a 250-MW pumped storage hydro project in Oregon. The Lorella Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Project is to be located near the town of Klamath Falls in Klamath County, Ore.
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.