Company says it has deals with land owners along the Yampa River in northwestern Colorado
A Salt Lake City-based company, rPlus Energies, says it has completed agreements with local landowners needed to begin moving forward with its proposed $1.5 billion pumped storage hydropower project near Craig.
Next: pre-feasibility design and engineering at the site. And then a formal proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which the company hopes to do by spring 2024.
“I would like to say that we are at the finish line, but we are still quite a ways before that,” Luigi Rest, president and chief executive of rPlus Energies, told The Steamboat Pilot.
Pumped-storage hydro impounds water in an upper reservoir and then, as needed, releases it to produce electricity. The water is then captured in a lower reservoir and, when electricity is at surplus, pumped back to the upper reservoir. This specific project envisions 600 megawatts of capacity over an eight-hour period. The construction time is estimated at 5 to 6 years.
The pumped-storage hydro project near Craig could use the existing transmission lines to tap excess renewable energy to pump the water uphill. The three coal-burning units there will be closed beginning in 2025 and wrapping up by 2030. Two other coal units in Hayden are also scheduled for retirement in the same time frame. Two and possibly three coal mines that supply the coal plants can also be expected to close. Most of the workers at all of these coal plants and mines live in Craig.
Moffat County commissioner Tony Bohrer told the Pilot he sees the potential pumped-storage hydro as “not a save-all but as a piece of the puzzle.”
The Pilot notes that the United States has 43 operational pumped-storage hydropower projects. The last was completed in 1993.
For many decades, the Cabin Creek pumped-storage hydro project from Georgetown to Guanella Pass was Colorado’s largest pumped-storage hydro project – and effectively its biggest battery. There are also two smaller pumped-storage hydro units associated with water projects near Leadville.
Xcel Energy toyed with the idea of a pumped-storage hydro project southwest of Grand Junction, in and above Unaweep Canyon, but quickly dropped the idea in the face of fierce opposition.
A site near Penrose, in south-central Colorado, has also been identified as a potential pumped-storage site. See this May 10 story in Big Pivots.
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