by K.C. Mehaffey
Aug. 23, 2016
BRIDGEPORT — Shell Energy officials are in Bridgeport this week pitching a project to generate power from the Columbia River, without building a dam.
The proposed Hydro Battery Pearl Hill Project would pump water from the river to a reservoir 1,300 vertical feet above the Columbia when demand for electricity is low. It would then generate electricity when water flows back down to the river during peak hours, said Kimberly Windon, a Shell spokeswoman. The company expects to complete the up-and-down cycle about twice a day, she said.
The project would generate about five megawatts of renewable energy every day from a facility constructed about eight miles northeast of Bridgeport, drawing water from Rufus Woods Lake above Chief Joseph Dam.
“There would be a continuous flow up and down the hill, and as the water moves back down, it generates power for the local grid,” Windon said.
The preliminary proposal includes an above-ground reservoir built on state Department of Natural Resources land, a lower reservoir made of a framed floating membrane in Rufus Woods Lake, and a pipeline to transfer water between the reservoirs.
There would also be a barge on the lake where generation, pumping and substation equipment would be positioned, and a transmission line to feed power to nearby Douglas County PUD distribution lines. A road to the upper reservoir would also be built.
“The project is really exciting. It’s a different way of thinking in terms of being able to bring energy to the region,” Windon said.
Windon said the company is seeking input from individuals, government agencies and groups.
“We want to know what people are most interested in, and what they may have concerns about, and to just generally answer questions they may have,” she said.
Those responses will help the company formulate its official application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which can determine whether to issue a permit.
The company received a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a step prior to submitting an application. It is also floating the idea to others who may have input, like local governments, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Windon described this phase as the early planning. She said once an application is submitted, Shell anticipates the regulatory phase of the project will take between a year and 18 months.
She said the project has the potential to help fill the gap between wind and solar power, generating electricity when other renewable energy sources are not producing electricity.
“The project would be a balance of supply and demand in the region,” she said.
She said the location northeast of Bridgeport is ideal because of the steep slopes right next to the river.
If the project is approved, she said, it will provide funds for local schools, as the company would lease land for the upper reservoir from DNR’s school trust lands.
Shell Energy is known for its oil production and exploration. The company also works in new energy sources including liquefied natural gas, biofuels, and wind power. Windon said she believes this would be Shell’s first hydro battery project.
Image provided Shell Energy North America is proposing a hydro battery project to generate electricity from the Columbia River water.