FERC cancels permit for 1,000-MW Don Pedro Pumped-Storage project

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has canceled the preliminary permit of a Symbiotics LLC affiliate to study development of the 1,000-MW Don Pedro Pumped-Storage project on California’s Tuolumne River.

FERC issued a Feb. 6 order canceling a preliminary permit (No. 14304) that had been issued to Don Pedro Hydro LLC in April 2012 due to Don Pedro Hydro’s failure to submit a six-month progress report by Oct. 21, 2013. FERC said no new permit applications for the site may be filed until after the March 7 effective date of its order.

Don Pedro Hydro’s first and only progress report was filed in October 2012, saying it had focused on “information retrieval and basic data research to assist in refining the project concepts and economic feasibility.” Don Pedro Hydro proposed a project that would utilize the existing Don Pedro Reservoir as its lower reservoir and construct an upper reservoir and powerhouse containing four 250-MW pump-turbine generators.

The existing Don Pedro Reservoir is part of the existing 168.015-MW Don Pedro hydro project (No. 2299) licensed to the Tuolumne Irrigation District and Modesto Irrigation District.

The irrigation districts had objected to Don Pedro Hydro’s original application for preliminary permit, saying it is FERC policy to deny permit applications where it is clear that a proposed development would infringe on a licensed project without the licensee’s consent. At that time, FERC said the objection was speculative and that a preliminary permit allows study of a site to avoid such infringement.

At that time, the irrigation districts pointed out they once held two preliminary permits to study an 880-MW pumped-storage project at the site. The project had been proposed to provide firming services for variable wind and solar power projects being developed in California.

Tuolumne and Modesto surrendered their most recent preliminary permit for a pumped-storage project at the site in 2011. The districts said pumped storage at the site presented many “trade-offs, conflicts and obstacles.”

“Such issues prompted the districts’ responsible determination that further pumped-storage development efforts should be deferred, but not permanently abandoned,” the districts said in their 2012 opposition to the Symbiotics permit. “The prospect that the districts, as the licensee (of No. 2299), should be required to ‘fence’ with multiple speculators claiming some right to develop a major pumped-storage project essentially in the middle of the districts’ licensed project is at a minimum burdensome and wasteful.”

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