Frequently Asked Questions

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a 50-year construction and operational license for the proposed Swan Lake Energy Storage Project in the second quarter of 2019. We want to continue to engage stakeholders in a dialogue about the project as we now move past the decade long permitting process and into construction. If you don’t see the answers to your questions here, we encourage you to reach out to us.

Pumped-storage facilities are closed-loop systems that move water between a lower reservoir and an upper reservoir. Water is released from the upper reservoir and used to turn hydroelectric turbines to generate electricity before being collected in the lower reservoir and then returned to the upper reservoir to repeat the process. When the energy used to return the water is from solar or wind, as it is with the Swan Lake Energy Storage Project, pumped storage is a carbon- and pollution-free source of on-demand power.

Pumped storage facilities are the most common form of energy storage in the U.S., representing 95% of all utility scale storage, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. It is a proven, available technology that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

Without a massive amount of additional storage capacity, we can’t bring more renewable resources onto the power grid, which is needed to meet Oregon, Washington, and California’s 100% renewable energy goals.

The two biggest sources of renewable energy — wind and solar power — are variable, which means they produce electricity only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Sometimes the generation from wind and solar facilities isn’t available to meet rising demand needs. Utility-scale storage facilities such as the Swan Lake Energy Storage Project allows energy generated from wind and solar resources to be stored and used when demand is highest. Specifically, in Oregon and the greater Pacific Northwest, storage facilities like Swan Lake will be necessary to replace the retiring fossil fuel-based electricity generation that previously kept the lights on when renewables were not available.

Once the lower reservoir in a closed-loop facility is filled, water is recirculated between the lower and elevated reservoirs via a pipe deep underground. During times of surplus electricity (peak sun hours or windy days), the plant uses surplus energy to pump water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir. Then, during peak demand hours, the water is returned by gravity to the lower reservoir passing through turbine generators that generate electricity. In comparison, open-loop pumped storage projects are continuously connected to a naturally-flowing water feature, such as a river, often-times creating aquatic and terrestrial impacts that closed-loop facilities do not face.

A recent study showed the Pacific Northwest will require 5-10 gigawatts of new storage for renewable energy during the next 10 years in order to meet 100% mandates in both Oregon and Washington.

The Project is owned by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, an energy infrastructure investment company based in Denmark focused on greenfield and renewable energy projects. CIP has a long track record of investing in projects that address climate change, positively benefit local communities, and create good-paying jobs. The company’s corporate ethic principles are guided by the UN Principles for Responsible Investments and the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact.

Rye Development is leading the development for Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. Rye Development is a locally based leading developer of new, low-impact hydropowered energy generation and energy storage projects in the United States. The Rye Development team has lived and worked in the Pacific Northwest for decades.

Pumped storage projects, like other significant infrastructure projects takes time to plan and construct even once a Federal License has been issued. As a result, the project is planned to be placed into service in 2026. Residents can expect to see construction activity on the ground in 2022.

During construction, the Swan Lake Energy Storage Project expected to support thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in earnings for construction workers. Once constructed, the permanent operations jobs are well paid family wage positions that cannot be moved offshore.

The construction of the Swan Lake Energy Storage Project is capital-intensive and represents a significant investment in durable domestic energy infrastructure. The project will provide a boost to the Klamath County economy and help increase the tax base by creating thousands of construction jobs, more than a dozen permanent operations and maintenance jobs, as well as local and regional demand for materials and services.

The successful integration of large amounts of wind and solar will increasingly depend on the ability to store large amounts of renewable energy on a daily basis so that it can be dispatched when and where it’s needed. Pumped storage is the most economical bulk energy storage solution that can address these challenges:

  • Storing renewable energy and absorbing over-generation: Pumped storage facilities can store large amounts of energy for use when needed, a feature that is particularly valuable during periods of over-generation when renewable energy production exceeds demand.

  • Meeting peak demand: Pumped storage resources are uniquely suited to releasing stores of renewable energy over long durations during periods of peak demand.

  • Capturing oversupply of solar: Pumped storage can support the efficient storage of large amounts of California solar energy for delivery to Oregon consumers at times of peak demand.

  • Minimizing curtailment and transmission congestion: Renewable resources are often located in remote areas with limited transmission. When transmission lines become congested, renewable generation sources are forced to curtail their production. Pumped storage acts as a buffer, optimizing the use of existing transmission lines and minimizing strain on the electrical grid, thereby reducing the need for upgrades.

In addition, Pumped storage can support most (if not all) of the grid reliability services currently provided by fossil fuel-fired power plants, such as primary frequency and voltage response. These ancillary services are critical to maintaining a reliable electricity grid. For these reasons, Pumped storage is the best available bulk energy storage technology for supporting renewables integration.

To address the climate crisis, lawmakers in Oregon, Washington and California have mandated that 100% of their states’ electricity must come from renewable resources. As a result, all regional utilities are seeking additional renewable electricity and storage capacity as they transition to a carbon-free grid. Numerous grid emergencies and 2020 blackouts in California have brought renewed attention to the need for backup power options to compliment the intermittent nature of renewable sources. Forecasts show the Pacific Northwest will need to plan for around 5,000-7,000 megawatts of additional carbon free storage capacity to support our transition to a carbon-free grid.

The Swan Lake Energy Storage Project can provide significant storage capacity to help utilities meet their near and long-term generation and storage needs.

Dozens of studies and a federal environmental impact statement were completed over the course of a decade long permitting process to ensure that the licensed project minimized impacts to the environment. The 50-year construction and operational license issued in 2019 includes numerous construction and operational measures that require the owner/operator to restore, protect, mitigate and/or enhance lands impacted by the project. Commonly asked about protection/precautions for existing infrastructure:

  • Normal farming and other commercial/non-commercial equipment and vehicles should be able to cross the easement without any restrictions

  • We are responsible for the repair of existing infrastructure including irrigation equipment, or utilities, damaged during project construction

  • We will minimize road impacts during construction and will be responsible for repairing any road damage caused by construction.

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