Columbia Basin Hydropower downsizes pumped storage project in Washington

Columbia Basin Hydropower told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Jan. 15 that it has lately cut the size of a planned pumped storage hydro project in Washington down from 1,000 MW to 500 MW, but with built-in options to boost the size again.

This Jan. 15 filing was the fifth six-month progress report for the company under a three-year preliminary permit issued by FERC for the Grand Coulee Project Hydroelectric Authority in August  2013. This potential hydroelectric project includes two alternative locations on Banks Lake, which is situated on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Columbia Basin Project (CBP) in Grant County, Washington.

  • Alternative No. 1 is located on the north end of Banks Lake near Reclamation’s North Dam.
  • Alternative No. 2 is located on the west side of Banks Lake approximately 13.5 miles southwest of North Dam.

Columbia Basin said it has determined to focus its efforts and resources on the Alternative No. 1 site for the present. Depending on the findings of the studies of the Alternative No. 1 site, it may then decide to focus future engineering and economic analysis on the Alternative No. 2 site.

Notable is that the Grand Coulee Project Hydroelectric Authority on July 1, 2015, formally changed its name to Columbia Basin Hydropower, so prior permitting and project updates were filed under the old name.

Columbia Basin Hydropower retained the firm of Kleinschmidt Associates for engineering consulting assistance in evaluating project developments. In May 2015, Kleinschmidt completed the “Regional Market Assessment and Preliminary Feasibility Report” for the Alternative No. 1 site. That 49-page report plus appendices evaluated the need for pumped storage projects in the northwest region, evaluated the advantages of the Banks Lake site, made preliminary estimates of costs and revenues and suggested a plan of future activities to further evaluate this pumped storage project. Following the completion of that report, Columbia Basin contracted with Kleinschmidt to develop and assist it with a “Banks Lake Pumped Storage Project Awareness and Marketing” effort. That work is ongoing and the contract calls for it to be complete by July 31, 2016 which is the expiration date for the preliminary permit.

The proposed Alternative No. 1 project would involve both Banks Lake and Lake Roosevelt and would also involve interaction with both hydraulic and power functions of Grand Coulee Dam. Therefore Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration will need to support the project. Coordination work with those entities is ongoing.

During the latest six-month period the company has also met with numerous public and private northwest utilities, power marketers, industry groups and regulators. These include: Northwest Power and Conservation Council, Energy Northwest, Puget Sound Energy, Avista Utilities, EDF Renewable Energy and Tacoma Public Utilities.

Based partly on feedback from some of the earlier meetings, Columbia Basin said it determined to base future planning on a 500 MW project rather than 1,000 MW. The May 2015 “Regional Market Assessment and Preliminary Feasibility Report” based its analysis on a 1,000 MW that could be down-scaled to a smaller capacity. As part of the contract for the “Project Awareness and Marketing” effort, Kleinschmidt has revised the findings of the original report to reflect a 500 MW capacity project that could be up-scaled. The 500 MW capacity was selected because it appears to better fit the likely needs of the region for peaking capacity, load balancing and other ancillary power products.

Columbia Basin said it plans to schedule meetings with Powerex (B. C. Hydro), PacifiCorp, Portland General Electric, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Battelle) and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). Another meeting with the U.S. Department of Energy about project financing is likely this spring. Much of the coming six month period will be spent communicating with these regional utilities, power marketers, industry groups and regulators with particular focus on Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration.

Due to the scale, expense and regional nature of this project Columbia Basin must determine if a regional development partner or partners can be acquired and if federal and state regulators are likely to allow the project to move ahead. If a development partnership and regulatory approval appear likely, the company said it will apply to extend the term of the preliminary permit no later than 30 days before its expiration on July 31, 2016.

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.