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Goldendale steps closer to $2 billion pumped water energy project


Last updated 1/18/2020 at 10:22am

The long-awaited Goldendale pumped water energy storage project took a giant step towards becoming reality in December when Rye Development LLC, in conjunction with National Grid USA, filed a license application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The application is more than 500 pages, including five sections and nine appendices. It is the culmination of years of research and studies, and, if approved, could be a significant economic windfall to Klickitat County and its residents. Goldendale Mayor Mike Canon called it “an incredible achievement” and cited those “who have worked so hard for so long to bring this about.”

Pumped water storage projects store and generate energy by moving water between two reservoirs at different elevations. At times of low electricity demand, like at night or on weekends, excess energy is used to pump water to an upper reservoir. When additional power is needed in high demand times, water in the upper reservoir flows to the lower reservoir through turbines that generate power.

Klickitat PUD, which spent more than a decade working on the idea and keeping it alive until they could find the right applicant, will not be an investor in the $2 billion project. Rye Development and National Grid will be footing the bill, and that means no increase in local PUD rates due to pumped storage.

The PUD will be involved in another way. The Washington Legislature, thanks largely to the efforts of State Senator Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside), appropriated funds for a $1.1 million pass-through grant to the project, to be administered by Klickitat PUD. The grant is intended to be used to pay consultants for studies that will need to be made to support the application. PUD General Manager Jim Smith said that no ratepayer dollars will be invested and that a portion of the grant is earmarked to the PUD to cover the administrative costs for the grant.

“Not only will the ratepayers be held whole on the grant,” Smith said, “but if Rye Development is successful in getting a license from FERC, the PUD will recover all our costs invested over the years.”

There’s a lot of process ahead before that can happen.

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