Montana Pumped Storage Hydro Facility to Augment Regional Wind Power Generation

A pumped storage hydropower facility in Montana that was recently given a license by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will support operations of local wind generating facilities once the project is completed.

FERC, in a Dec. 14 order, granted GB Energy Park a license to construct the 400-MW Gordon Butte Pumped Storage project. The project will draw water from Cottonwood Creek and will be located in Meagher County, Montana.

According to the order, the Gordon Butte project will be constructed on private land owned by 71 Ranch LP.  The upper reservoir will be located on Gordon Butte, a landform that rises about 1,025 feet above the Musselshell River valley. The lower reservoir will be located at the northern base of Gordon Butte. An existing wind farm consisting of six wind turbines, also owned and operated by 71 Ranch, is located on the eastern edge of Gordon Butte, near the proposed upper reservoir.

The order said that, during project operation, the project will pump water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir when energy is in excess or in low demand.  When energy is needed, water will be released from the upper reservoir through the power tunnel to the powerhouse. The facility will produce power based on on-peak/off-peak power considerations, the need to augment the production of local wind power generation, or to provide ancillary power services.

According to GB Energy’s application, the region, particularly in the Columbia River Gorge, has seen a significant increase in the interconnection of wind energy. The Bonneville Power Administration has interconnected about 5,100 W of wind generation and plans to interconnect an additional 3,000 MW to 4,000 MW of wind by 2025.

GB Energy expects to complete the project by 2021.

Lead image credit: Ethan Kan | Flickr

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