Energy project slated for county

pumped storage diagram best1By Garrett Estrada
Ely Times Staff Writer

White Pine County could be the home for a new water pumping underground turbine, according to a report by Gridflex Energy. The project will begin doing early engineering, geotechnical, environmental and market studies in 2014, with construction planned for 2017.

The turbine would be located just outside of Ely by Gonder substation and operate entirely on Bureau of Land Management land. Water from an upper basin would be pumped down to a new artificial basin below passing through the turbine to generate energy.

The water could be pumped back and forth, at ”peak” hours, according to the report by Gridflex.

The company’s website says the pump storage facility proposed in White Pine County offers benefits over more traditional energy generators.

“In sum, pumped storage facilities should be viewed as firm generating assets with the capability to provide the full range of ancillary services more quickly than gas peakers and more cost-effectively than other storage approaches.”

The energy produced could be transported and sold to Southern Nevada as well as surrounding states.

Gridflex approached Ely City Councilman Sam Hanson with the proposal, and he says he could see it being a real benefit to the community.

“We are talking about a massive construction project that could bring lots of jobs to Ely, as well as add maybe 50 or so long term positions to maintain it,” Hanson said of the eventual staff it would require to run the equipment.

Gridflex has already acquired the necessary permits for the land, though issues of water rights still need to be finalized. Studies will continue through 2015 before Gridflex can get the final license application from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The project is one of several the company is currently in development on, including others in Clark County and Mineral County.

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  1. Jon Lewis says:

    Um, it will take more energy to pump the water back up than it will generate in flowing down to run the turbine.

    One needs only to Google “law of conservation of energy” to understand how this won’t work.

    Additionally, the losses in the system (both electrical and physical, i.e. evaporation) will drag the concept down further,

    That is why a generator can’t be mechanically coupled to a motor and use the generator output to electrically drive the motor.

    Perpetual motion is unobtainable.

    • Matthew Shapiro says:

      There are currently more than 100 pumped storage projects in operation around the world, the first having been built about a century ago, so nothing new is being invented here. As Jon notes, it does take more energy to pump up than you get out. The efficiency loss is about 20%. However, the loss is considered worth it because you’re using lesser value off-peak energy to pump, and trading it for on-demand, on-peak energy that is more valuable. The pumped storage facility can release that power more rapidly and more flexibly than any other type of generating facility. It can also, within a few minutes, switch from being a generator into a load, absorbing energy from the grid, and then back to being a generator. This is an important function because the grid always needs a constant balance between generation and demand. An additional advantage to pumped storage hydro is its lifetime: none have ever been retired. The plant can last 60 years, 75 years, or longer. This is compared with 35 years for a conventional gas turbine that might also be used for peaking power. Thus the ratepayers get a better deal in the long run.

  2. Not neccessarily Jon. What the article excludes is the Head (drop in feet), the velocity and area in square feet of the basin. When you multiply those three figures together and divide by 23 you get the kilowatts of power produced.

    My assumption is that the turbine would produce more power than the pump uses, making it a self contained electricity production dream!

    Here’s an example:
    Just a 20 foot drop at 50gpm will produce 85 watts if continuous power if the correct turbine is used. Since the drop behind that substation is clearly greater than 20 feet I would assume that something like a Pelton turbine would be used.

    I’ve only studied this for home use, but the Amish have been pumping water by only using the force of the water through a hydrolic ram. This has been practiced for over 100 years.

    So, I disagree with the above comment, it’s a great idea and a wonderful use of our natural resources.

    • Jon Lewis says:

      You may disagree, but you can’t change physics. Let’s make it into a simpler for you. You can’t get more energy out of a system than you put into it. Because of losses, you will always get less out than you put into it. You will never reach unity. That is called perpetual motion.

      • Pumped storage has been used for decades. The idea isn’t to make more power than you use, it is to use power to pump when power is cheap and release water through the turbine and make power during peak load periods. SRP, which supplies water and power to the Phoenix area, has two dams on the Salt River with pumped storage capability, They has been in that type of operation since 1969. There they use it by pumping at night when power is cheap and the releasing water and making power during the peak daytime periods. It is a method of energy storage that could be used in conjunction with solar or wind power. It’s probably more cost effective than batteries, which they are starting to test on a fairly large scale in California now (now that the legislature has mandated energy storage in that state).

        • My 2nd sentence should have read: “The idea isn’t to make as much power as you use, it is to use….”

        • Ed – Definitely more cost-effective than batteries, in several ways. First, batteries get very expensive when you go past a few hours of storage capacity. Most of the current large-scale batteries, in fact, only have 15 minutes of storage capacity. So batteries can’t really serve as peaking capacity resources for utilities (needing at least 6 hours of generation time) the way that pumped storage can. Also, there is the life cycle. Utility-scale batteries have (maybe) a lifetime of 10-20 years, at most, and that in part depends on how deep you discharge it. Pumped storage has a lifetime of 60, 75 years or even longer.

      • Steve Schneider says:

        Google “pumped storage generation” and you will learn that the system uses cheap off-peak electricity to pump the water up and sells expensive peak electricity when demand is highest. It is a common method to deal with the highs and lows of electricity demand but does not increase overall production capacity.

  3. Steven M. Stork says:

    Well….maybe Garret Estrada is going be a good reporter for Ely and White Pine County. I first read about this project some ten months ago in Northern Nevada Business Weekly. The story reads in part;

    Big pumped-storage projects studied

    Hydropower pumped-storage is moving west, and for the first time projects that use the technology for electric generation are on the drawing board in Nevada. Two sites in Humboldt County are being developed by Winnemucca Farms Inc. while Gridflex Energy LLC, a private company based in Boise, Idaho, is hoping to build plants in three locations, in Clark County, Ely and a spot straddling Lyon and Mineral counties. All five projects have received preliminary permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the first official step in what could be a near decade-long process from concept to energy production…..
    Published March 18, 2013
    You can read the story in its entirety at Search Gridflex

    Garret, another worthy news item I have read there, is a report on the oil exploration wells planned for Butte Valleys and to the South of Ely

    I understand that you are new at the Ely Times and therefore didn’t have a real opportunity to report on this project in a timely fashion, none the less, there are a lot of us readers who appreciate you bringing these stories to our local publication…even if its 10 months after the original report. I give you credit for at least reporting the news relevant to us. Keep up the good work!

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