FERC issues permit for 500-MW San Vicente pumped storage project in California

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on May 14 issued a preliminary permit, good for three years, to the San Diego County Water Authority and the city of San Diego for a 500-MW pumped storage hydro project.

In October 2014, the San Diego County Water Authority filed an application for a preliminary permit so it could have exclusive time to study the feasibility of the San Vicente Pumped Storage Project, to be located at the San Vicente reservoir in Lakeside, California. On April 7, the Water Authority filed an amendment to its permit application in order to add the city of San Diego as a co-applicant.

The lower reservoir portion of the  project would consist of: the existing San Vicente reservoir with a storage capacity of 246,000 acre-feet and a surface area of 1,600 acres at a normal maximum operating elevation of 766 feet above mean sea level (msl); the existing San Vicente roller compacted concrete (RCC) gravity dam; a lower reservoir inlet/outlet structure equipped with trash racks and one or two slide gates; a 230-kV substation containing step-up transformers, circuit breakers, and disconnect switches; a switchyard constructed at the point of interconnection; and an approximately 5-mile-long, 230-kV overhead or underground transmission line that would extend from the northern end of San Vicente reservoir to the 230-kV Sycamore substation and interconnect with San Diego Gas and Electric’s 500-kV Sunrise Powerlink transmission line. Depending on the site chosen for the upper reservoir, the project would generate between 715 and 1,022 gigawatt-hours (GWh) annually.

The Water Authority identified four potential sites for the upper reservoir.

  • Site A would be located near Iron Mountain, approximately 3 miles northwest of the San Vicente reservoir. That option includes a subsurface powerhouse containing two 250-MW vertical Francis variable speed reversible pump/turbine/generator units. This alternative would generate approximately 1,022 GWh annually.
  • Site B would be located near Foster Canyon, approximately 0.5 mile northwest of the San Vicente reservoir. It would include a subsurface powerhouse containing two 250-MW vertical Francis variable speed reversible pump/turbine/generator units. This alternative would generate approximately 1,022 GWh annually.
  • Site C would be located 0.8 mile northeast of the San Vicente reservoir. It involves a subsurface powerhouse containing two 250-MW vertical Francis variable speed reversible pump/turbine-motor/generator units. This alternative would generate approximately 1,022 GWh annually.
  • Site D would be located 1.8 miles southeast of the San Vicente reservoir. It would include a subsurface powerhouse containing two 250-MW vertical Francis variable speed reversible pump/turbine-motor/generator units. This alternative would generate about 715 GWh annually.

During the permit review process at FERC, the city of San Diego stated that it possessed proprietary rights to the dam and reservoir that would form the proposed project’s lower reservoir, and requested that the commission order the Water Authority to amend its application to name the city as a joint applicant for the proposed project. On Jan. 13, the Water Authority and the city jointly filed a request that the Commission hold the Water Authority’s permit application in abeyance for a period of 90 days in order for the parties, which both hold property interests necessary to develop the project, to enter into specific partnership agreements enabling them to proceed as co-permittees for the proposed project. Then on April 7 the Water Authority amended its application to add the city as a co-applicant.

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.