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Science and Innovations

New Developer Investigates “Pumped Storage” Project in Big Chino Valley

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ITC Grid Development
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A Michigan-based company wants to build a hydropower project near Seligman that would store wind and solar energy until it’s needed. An environmental group and a tribal group have filed objections to the preliminary permit. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

The water to initially fill the reservoirs would come from the Big Chino Aquifer, which feeds the Verde River. If built, this would be the first “closed loop” pumped storage project in Arizona. It acts like a giant battery. Water from a lower reservoir is pumped to a higher reservoir when demand is low and energy is cheap. The water is then released through turbines to generate power at peak demand.

Terry Harvill is president of ITC Grid Development. "We’re going to have to go down this path at some point in time as a country, storage, whether it’s battery or pumped storage; and as issues develop around putting more renewables on the system, this is a solution to help manage even more renewables coming onto the system in the future."

A different developer, Longview Energy Exchange, investigated this idea in 2012 and was criticized by environmental and tribal groups over water concerns.

Learn more about the Big Chino Valley project here, or about pumped storage projects in general.

The public can submit comments on this proposal until December 12. See instructions in the Federal Register. To date, the Center for Biological Diversity and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community have filed motions to intervene.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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