Energy storage project moving forward

August 30, 2021

A proposed closed-loop pumped hydro storage facility near Goldendale is again moving forward. The Goldendale Energy Storage Project proposes to store “clean” energy generated by wind and solar projects.

“It’s an old sort of ‘back to the future’ project,” said Michael Rooney, vice president of Project Management for Rye Development, LLC. “We think closed-loop pumped hydro storage is critical to the grid, specifically in the Pacific Northwest.”

The project is owned by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, an energy infrastructure company based in Denmark. “They have a long track record of investing in projects that are renewable in nature and have a good, positive impact for local communities from an economic development standpoint,” Rooney said during a presentation before the Wasco County Board of Commissioners this spring.

He has also presented an overview of the project to The Dalles City Council, community groups and the Mid-Columbia Economic Development Commission, among others.

The project developer is Rye Development, LLC. “We are the largest developer of new hydro resources and hydro storage in the country,” Rooney said. They are a team of 10, with a portfolio of low impact “run of river” hydro projects, mostly in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern United States, he said.

The Goldendale project is a closed-loop pumped hydro storage project. “It is completely off river in what we call a closed loop,” Rooney said. It is located on private land 8 miles southeast of the town of Goldendale, within Klickitat County’s “Clean Energy Overlay Zone,” established in 2005 to expedite clean energy development.

“When completed, the scale of the project is significant,” Rooney noted. It will generate about 1,200 megawatts of clean electricity, and have, roughly, a 12 to 20 hour storage capacity. “You can think of this project as a big water battery.”

The project consists of two 60 acre ponds, with significant elevation between them and a tunnel fitted with turbines between them.

“It’s a sizeable project,” he said, but has a smaller footprint then would be needed for traditional battery storage. To generate the same 1,200 with wind turbines would require roughly 7,300 acres of land; solar would require roughly 54,000 acres. The Goldendale project would be situated on 600 acres. “It’s a much smaller footprint then other technologies,” Rooney said. The site is well suited for this type of project, he added. “You need the acres, the water, and proximity to transmission [the electrical grid]. All those requirements are met on the property.”

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- By Mark Gibson - Columbia Gorge News