Hydropower project proposed for Kemmerer

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a preliminary permit for PacifiCorp, which is hoping to move forward with a pumped storage project near Kemmerer. The project would use waters within Lake Viva Naughton and construct a new upper reservoir in the area. (COURTESY IMAGE)

KEMMERER — With at least four major pumped storage projects being proposed in Wyoming, PacifiCorp hopes to build one of them near Kemmerer.

PacifiCorp applied for a preliminary permit to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, proposing a pumped storage facility near Lake Viva Naughton outside Kemmerer. The company sent an application for a license for the project while undertaking the studies necessary to determine its feasibility.

The proposed pumped storage project would use the waters within Lake Viva Naughton for the lower reservoir and would require the construction of a new upper reservoir. There are two alternative upper reservoir configurations for evaluation during the preliminary permit term.

According to the PacifiCorp proposal, the project would be an open-loop system that would exchange water between the new upper reservoir and the existing Viva Naughton lower reservoir. The proposal states the purpose of this project would be to support and balance PacifiCorp’s system energy needs while allowing for other renewable sources, such as wind and solar.

The project would pump water from the lower reservoir during times when surplus energy from other resources is available and generate electricity during periods of high demand.

The proposal states that penstocks would be built to carry water between the upper reservoir and the powerhouse at the lower reservoir. Depending on the final configuration, the penstock could branch out and deliver water to each of the three turbine units or maintain the single pipe layout to a single unit.

PacifiCorp spokesperson David Eskelsen said the feasibility study period can take up to four years.

“Pump storage is a unique concept pairing an upper reservoir with a lower reservoir,” he said.

The advantages of pump storage, Eskelsen said, is the energy density is greater than chemical battery storage with a longer duration of storage output. Pumped storage provides more power potential and the facilities last a lot longer. However, it also requires more up-front capital investments, land and water.

As the country’s power grid takes on more wind and solar energy, and coal-fired electrical generation is shutting down, more energy storage will be needed to maintain a reliable sustained energy supply. Though the initial preliminary permit was issued in January of 2022, the scheduled studies for the project span out to 2025. The environmental and economic analysis portion of the permit is scheduled for July 2025.

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