Grand Coulee reports progress on Washington pumped storage project

The Grand Coulee Project Hydroelectric Authority (GCPHA) told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Jan. 9 that it made good progress on a pumped storage hydro project, despite opposition from the Bonneville Power Administration.

The Jan. 9 filing was the authority’s first six-month progress report under a preliminary permit issued by FERC in August 2013. A preliminary permit allows a party the exclusive right to explore project feasibility, with a license application then needed at FERC if the decision is to move forward with the project.

This hydroelectric project includes two alternative locations on Banks Lake, which is situated on the Bureau of Reclamation’ s Columbia Basin Project in Grant County, Wash. Alternative No. 1 is located on the north end of Banks Lake, while Alternative No. 2 is on the west side of Banks Lake. It is estimated by the GCPHA that the Alternative No. 1 site has the potential for an installed capacity of 1,000 MW and 2,263 GWh of annual generation. For the Alternative No. 2 site these estimates are 1,040 MW and 2,978 GWh.

In September 2013, shortly following the issuance of this preliminary permit, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) filed a petition seeking to require FERC to reconsider that decision. “Through this action BPA questioned the standing of GCPHA to be granted a preliminary permit for hydroelectric development at this site pursuant to Section 2406 of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-486, Section 2406),” the authority noted. “While these proceedings were going on, GCPHA delayed any substantive planning for either alternative site. On October 21, 2013 FERC dismissed BPA’s petition for rehearing.”

During the October-November 2013 period, GCPHA said it reviewed a number of existing studies about Banks Lake and about potential pumped storage projects in the northwest. Some of the studies regarding pumped storage projects also included evaluation of other alternative methods to integrate wind energy generation into the regional transmission grid and to address anticipated future generation capacity deficits in the region. Pumped storage is a key way to even out the contributions to the grid of intermittent wind generation. Some of the Banks Lake studies evaluated differing pumping scenarios between Lake Roosevelt and Banks Lake and include much environmental information about Banks Lake.

GCPHA added that it has been working with its consulting engineer, Knight Piesold and Co., to develop an approach to the engineering and other technical studies that will be necessary to determine the feasibility of these two pumped storage projects. The scope and budget for these studies is very preliminary and not agreed to at this time.

During the next six-month period GCPHA said it will continue to develop a plan for the necessary engineering studies and will attempt to get the initial studies underway during that period. GCPHA noted that it will continue working with Reclamation to resolve any “relationship uncertainties.” GCPHA will also continue communicating with parties within the region’s electric utility industry to identify potential development partners and approach tribal and governmental organizations thought to be potential stakeholders in this project.

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.