FERC rejects new permit for 500-MW pumped storage project in Wyoming

Citing lack of progress by the developer, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Nov. 26 rejected an application from Black Canyon Hydro LLC for a successive preliminary permit to further study the feasibility of the 500-MW Black Canyon Pumped Storage Project.

The Black Canyon project is to be located near Rawlins in Carbon County, Wyoming. Black Canyon proposes to use the Seminoe or Kortes reservoirs as the lower reservoir for the project. Both reservoirs are owned and operated by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. Black Canyon also proposes two options for the upper reservoir, both of which would be located on lands owned by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

The generating equipment for all alternatives will consist of three 166-MW adjustable-speed, reversible pump-turbines with a total generating capacity of 500 MW. The estimated annual generation of the project would be 2,628 gigawatt-hours.

In July 2011, commission staff issued Black Canyon a three-year preliminary permit for the project, which allowed exclusivity for feasibility work while a potential license application is prepared. The permit required, among other things, that Black Canyon file a notice of intent to file a license application (NOI) and a pre-application document (PAD) within one year of the date of the permit. This permit expired on June 30, 2014. On July 1, 2014, Black Canyon filed an application for a successive preliminary permit for the same project at the same location.

“A review of the record indicates that Black Canyon’s pursuit of project development during the term of its preliminary permit does not warrant a successive permit,” FERC said in the Nov. 26 order. “The progress reports indicate that, over the three-year permit term, Black Canyon made very little progress toward the filing of a development application.

“The information provided in each of the progress reports is very similar, with each noting an ongoing evaluation of the engineering and economic feasibility of the project. Nothing in the progress reports or permit successive application suggests that Black Canyon is preparing a development application for the project, nor do they indicate that Black Canyon performed any physical studies during the permit term. The progress reports and successive preliminary permit application reiterate Black Canyon’s desire to coordinate this project with a nearby wind development and their inability to move forward with studies until the wind development project is secured.

“There is also no evidence of planning activities for completing the requisite NOI and PAD, choosing a licensing process, or conducting the required consultation to support a development application. Rather, Black Canyon’s filing clearly indicates a desire to hold the site until economic conditions for the proposed project are more conducive to its success, which would constitute site banking. The essence of the Commission’s policy against site banking is that an entity that is unwilling or unable to develop a site should not be permitted to maintain the exclusive right to develop it.”

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.