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Utility commissioners agree that electric utility will have to bear the burden of investigating a pumped-storage idea mostly on its own dime

 

Xcel Energy asked for permission to spend up to $15 million in investigating whether a pumped-storage hydro project in Unaweep Canyon, south of Grand Junction, is feasible.

No, said Colorado Public Utility Commission members at a meeting on June 10. You can get $1 million that can be recovered from customers but no more.

The company has filed for a preliminary permit application with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, putting it in more or less the same stage of the planning process as the Craig-Hayden projects. Which is to say early.

“I just see this project has having enormous environmental, financial and technological risks,” said Commissioner John Gavan.

Eric Blank, the commission chairman, had said he would be willing to go for $5 million as there seems to be a gap in funding for development of ideas and before they can be solidified. “It’s a little bit of a chicken-and-egg problem.”

Megan Gilman, the third commissioner, said she was inclined to reject Xcel’s proposal.

The canyon does have tremendous vertical relief. It’s a canyon without a river, although some geologists have conjectured it was originally a pathway for the Colorado River.

See also: Thinking Big about Wind and Water in Wyoming

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