Developer restarts FERC permitting process for 600-MW Lake Elsinore

WASHINGTON 12/19/11 (PennWell) — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has accepted a preliminary permit application from developer Nevada Hydro Co. to study a 600-MW Lake Elsinore pumped-storage project, reviving the southern California project that FERC previously dismissed.

FERC previously rejected Nevada Hydro’s request to reconsider dismissal of a license application for the then-500-MW Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped-Storage (LEAPS) project (No. 11858). The project was rejected due to long-standing disagreements between Nevada Hydro and its co-applicant, Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District, owner of the existing Lake Elsinore.

FERC had found that Nevada Hydro’s primary interest appeared to be developing the LEAPS project’s transmission line to transport power between major California utilities, rather than building a pumped-storage project and its associated transmission line. In contrast, FERC said, Elsinore Valley merely wanted to develop a pumped-storage project and improve the water quality of Lake Elsinore.

“Our action here is based on our conclusion that it does not make sense to continue processing an application the co-applicants for which do not agree as to the project at issue,” FERC said in its Nov. 17 rehearing denial. “This in no way represents a conclusion as to the merits of a pumped-storage project at Lake Elsinore.”

At that time, FERC left the door open to a new application to develop the project, stating “It may be possible to use in any future licensing proceeding those portions of the record that have been developed in these proceedings which remain up to date.”

FERC announced Nov. 29 that it accepted an application from Nevada Hydro for a preliminary permit to study development of the Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped-Storage project (No. 14227), with a 100-MW increase in installed capacity. Nevada Hydro, which filed as sole applicant, has said a new preliminary permit, which would reserve the hydro site against potential competitors, would preserve its investment in LEAPS while it continues other permitting and pre-development work.

The project would be located on San Juan Creek in Riverside County, Calif., utilizing the existing Lake Elsinore as its lower reservoir. A 240-foot-tall dam and upper reservoir would be built in Decker Canyon along with a powerhouse. The plan also includes 32 miles of 500-kilovolt transmission line connecting to an existing Southern California Edison transmission line to the north and an existing San Diego Gas & Electric transmission line to the south.

Because the transmission line would be used to exchange power over the interconnected California grid, rather than solely to deliver power from LEAPS, FERC has said it would not have jurisdiction to license that part of the project. Nevada Hydro is pursuing a parallel proceeding before the California Public Utilities Commission to obtain permission for that part of the project.

FERC called for comments on the hydro permit application within 60 days of its Nov. 29 notice of the application.

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