Eagle Mountain pumped-storage hydropower plant integral for California, GEI Consultants says

With pumped-storage hydroelectric power being a key topic of national interest, the HydroVision International 2014 Conference and Exhibition gave decision makers an opportunity to interact with companies developing projects with an increasingly prominent role in America’s grid system.

Amongst these projects is the 1,300-MW Eagle Mountain hydropower plant, which was licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in June.

The project will use an inactive iron mine in Riverside County, Calif., with a head of 1,400 feet between two reservoirs created from abandoned mining pits.

Developing partner GEI Consultants Inc. provided an update on the project at HydroVision International, saying that Eagle Mountain will be an “integral component of California’s renewable energy policies, and its goals for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

FERC’s licensing order licenses the project as proposed by the Eagle Crest Energy Company with some staff modifications and additional measures, primarily to mitigate environmental effects. The primary environmental issues associated with the project are effects of its construction and operation on groundwater, water quality, and terrestrial species, including several sensitive bat species, the desert bighorn sheep, and the threatened desert tortoise.

The project includes construction of two saddle dams and liners for the proposed reservoirs. Groundwater is to be pumped from a series of proposed wells in the Chuckwalla Basin to fill the reservoirs and replace water lost to evaporation. A reverse osmosis system is to be installed to remove salts and metals from the reservoirs to help maintain water quality of the reservoirs and counteract degradation associated with evaporation.

“[Eagle Mountain] will play a major role in satisfying peak energy demands, integration of renewable resources located in the California desert, and management of the regional transmission grid so that on-demand reliable energy can be delivered throughout southern California,” GEI Consultants said.

FERC staff issued a final environmental impact statement in 2012 recommending issuance of a license to Eagle Crest Energy Co. for the project (No. 13123). California issued state water quality certification under Clean Water Act Section 401 last year, paving the way for FERC licensing.

Once complete, the project will be the 15th largest pumped-storage facility in the world and the 5th largest in the United States.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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