Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage

Long time GEI client, Eagle Crest Energy Company received its license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for its Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Project thanks to an incredible 7‑year effort by GEI. What makes this accomplishment even more notable is the fact that, to date, FERC has only authorized a total of 24 pumped storage projects that are constructed and in operation within the US, with a total installed capacity of approximately 16,500 megawatts (MW). In addition, most of these projects were authorized more than 30 years ago.

The Eagle Mountain Hydroelectric Pumped Storage Project will operate as an energy storage facility – water will be stored in a lower elevation reservoir and then pumped to a higher elevation reservoir during periods of low electrical demand. Water in the upper reservoir will be held until energy is needed to meet electrical demand, then released through a powerhouse where it will generate more valuable on-peak energy. The project is located on the site of the inactive Eagle Mountain Mine, in Riverside County, California, near the town of Desert Center. The pits at the mine have been unused for decades; two pits will be modified to become water storage reservoirs.

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Key Challenges

The Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Project will be an integral component of California’s renewable energy policies, and its goals for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It will play a major role in satisfying peak energy demands, integration of renewable energy resources located in the California desert, and management of the regional transmission grid so that on-demand reliable energy can be delivered throughout southern California. The Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Project, once completed, will provide up to 1,300 MW of energy for peak demand periods, which would make it the 15th largest pumped storage project in the world, and the 5th largest in the United States.

Since 2007, GEI has led the consultant team responsible for licensing efforts. GEI was selected for this role because of specialized knowledge of FERC licensing procedures, dam design, and California water resources planning and hydrogeology. GEI’s responsibilities included preparation of the FERC License Application including the Supporting Design Report, Environmental Assessment, Project Schedule, and other exhibits.

GEI assisted the client with stakeholder consultation, identification of potential sources of water supply, development of project configuration; technical analyses for the upper reservoir dams, water conducting tunnels, and underground powerhouse; conceptual designs for project water supply, reservoir seepage control and monitoring measures; drainage and flood management, as well as access roads, and tunnels, and the reservoirs’ water quality management system.

GEI also prepared an Applicant Prepared Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the State Water Resources Control Board to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). GEI prepared the Draft and Final EIR and responses to comments on the State Board’s behalf. Critical environmental issues included the presence of desert tortoise in the project Area, a state- and federally-listed threatened species; groundwater use in the Chuckwalla aquifer; water quality concerns; potential risk of subsidence and hydro compaction; and air quality and visual concerns. All issues were successfully addressed and FERC issued a license for the project in 2014.

GEI continues to serve Eagle Crest Energy as the lead consultant managing FERC license compliance. The team prepared plans for groundwater monitoring, wildlife protection, avian protection, air quality monitoring, and other resource protection plans. GEI is also supporting Eagle Crest Energy in their pursuit of a right-of-way from the Bureau of Land Management.

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From environmental to regulatory to engineering GEI always provides best in class personnel to guide us through challenging processes and decisions

- Steve Lowe, President, Eagle Crest Energy Corporation