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.

Closed-loop pumped storage facilities have two reservoirs at different elevations connected by a pipe with reversible turbines. When demand for electricity is low, excess renewable energy is used to pump water from the lower to the upper reservoir. When demand for electricity is high, water is released from the upper reservoir and flows downhill. The water spins turbines to generate electricity. Then the facility repeats this cycle, continually storing and dispatching clean energy.

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 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.

In a closed-loop pumped storage facility, water is continually recirculated between the two reservoirs via a pipe deep underground.

In comparison, in an open-loop pumped storage project, one of the reservoirs is connected to a naturally-flowing water feature, such as a river. Open-loop pumped storage facilities have the potential to create aquatic and terrestrial impacts that closed-loop facilities do not.

Oregon and Washington’s 100% renewable energy mandates, along with the electrification of our buildings and transportation sector, are two of the biggest factors driving up the need for energy storage capacity.

A recent study showed the Pacific Northwest needs 3-7 gigawatts (GW) of new energy storage capacity by 2025—a deadline that’s quickly approaching. By 2050, the region will need a whopping 20 GW of new energy storage capacity.

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 the company leading the development for Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. Rye Development is a leading developer of new, low-impact hydro powered energy generation and energy storage projects in the United States. The Rye Development team working on the Swan Lake Energy Project has lived and worked in the Pacific Northwest for decades.

Pumped storage projects (like other significant hydropower infrastructure projects) take a long 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.

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 almost 1,500 construction jobs, more than a dozen permanent operations and maintenance jobs, as well as more than 1,200 ancillary jobs (services, hospitality, medical, etc.). Go here to find a full economic and financial impact report.

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, to dispatch it 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.

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.

Building relationships with Klamath County residents was critical to the successful Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensing of the Swan Lake Energy Project. Through considerable outreach and engagement with the local community, the project will complement the existing economy of the region and respect local landowners. Agricultural and commercial equipment and vehicles will be able to cross easements without any restrictions, and grazing, irrigating, farming and other activities will resume after construction.

Dozens of studies and a federal environmental impact statement were completed over the course of Swan Lake Energy Project’s decade-long permitting process, designed to ensure that the licensed project minimizes impacts to the environment. The 50-year construction and operational license issued in 2019 includes numerous construction and operational measures that require the project’s 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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