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FERC Staff Endorses Goldendale
Energy Project in Washington

by Don Jenkins
Capital Press, April 30, 2023

FERC recommended fencing the reservoirs and putting plastic balls
in them to make them less attractive to birds, especially golden eagles.

Denmark investment firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners would own a pumped-storage hydro project along the Columbia River in south-central Washington. Tribes oppose the project. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff has recommended licensing an energy project that would send water drawn from the Columbia River rushing through an underground powerhouse in south-central Washington.

The Goldendale Energy Storage Project would require a small amount of water and supply on-demand energy to back up wind and solar power, according to a FERC draft environmental impact statement.

The project would be the first in Washington that generates electricity by releasing water stored in an upper reservoir. The water would rush through buried pipes and turbines and empty into a lower reservoir.

Rye Development of West Palm Beach, Fla., is planning the project for the owner, Denmark investment firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. Northwest and California utilities would buy the power, according to FERC.

The turbines would typically run eight hours a day and generate 3.5 million megawatt-hours a year, while pumping water into the upper reservoir would take 4.3 million megawatt-hours, according to Rye.

FERC staff noted the project could increase carbon emissions if the electricity pumping the water uphill was generated by fossil fuels. FERC, however, agreed the project's energy will be needed to meet peak demand.

The FERC report is an important milestone for the Goldendale project, Rye vice president of project development Erick Steimle said in a statement.

The project will be “part of the essential infrastructure we need to combat climate change and meet the state of Washington's renewable energy needs,” he said.

Besides a FERC license, the project will need a water-quality permit from the state Department of Ecology. Agency spokeswoman Emily Tasaka said Friday the department is due to make a decision by May 23.

The department's decision will be based entirely on the Ecology's own environmental study, she said.

The Yakama, Umatilla, Nez Perce and Warm Springs tribes oppose the project. The tribes say the project will disturb and block access to spiritual sites and medicinal plants. Efforts to obtain comments from the tribes were unsuccessful.

FERC has licensed 24 pump-storage projects in the U.S., including four in California. Proponents say the projects are a type of battery that can be used when wind and solar can't meet the demand for energy.

The Goldendale project would be 8 miles southeast of the city of Goldendale in Klickitat County in an area that was an aluminum plant until 2003.

The reservoirs would be dug and filled once with 7,640 acre-feet of water. To make up for evaporation and seepage, another 360 acre-feet would have to added each year, according to FERC's report.

The Klickitat PUD has a water right and would sell the water for the project. Considering the size of the Columbia River, the water withdrawal would be negligible, according to the report.

Both reservoirs would cover about 60 acres. Birds might be drawn to the water and that could be bad for the birds because windmills border the reservoirs, according to FERC's report.

FERC recommended fencing the reservoirs and putting plastic balls in them to make them less attractive to birds, especially golden eagles.

FERC will have public hearings on the draft environmental impact statement at 10 a.m. to noon and then 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3, at the Goldendale Grange, 228 East Darland Drive.

Related Pages:
Washington Clean-Energy Project Seen as Threat to Tribal Resources by Don Jenkins, Capital Press, 12/23/22

Don Jenkins
FERC Staff Endorses Goldendale Energy Project in Washington
Capital Press, April 30, 2023

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