Goldendale: Clean Energy Storage for the Future

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A renewable energy project eight miles southeast of the small town of Goldendale, Washington, has the potential to help solve the need for large-scale energy storage in the Pacific Northwest as the region transitions towards carbon-free electric generation.  Called the Goldendale Energy Storage Project, this proposed closed loop pumped hydro storage facility will able to serve as a much-needed power and energy storage resource benefiting Washington, Oregon, and potentially California. 

For several years, we have written on the value of pumped storage and its vital importance in storing electricity from other renewable resources, including our most recent blog on the Eagle Mountain pumped storage project in California. The increasing reliance on renewables has rapidly accelerated the need to store energy when the sun is not shining and wind isn’t blowing, especially in states that have set ambitious timelines to eliminate fossil fuels from their generation mix. Washington, Oregon, and California are no exception, each setting their carbon free mandates between 2040 and 2045. Unfortunately, however, a recent study finds that that the Pacific Northwest still, “faces a near-term capacity shortage of up to 7,000 megawatts (MW) by 2025 and up to 10,000 MW by 2030.” Planned resources already brought online, the study added, “do not fill this gap.”

In light of President Biden’s new target for the U.S. to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030,  the planning and permitting for large-scale storage facilities will become of increased focus for grid operators in need of storage resources to carry the load of increasing demand for renewable energy. It should be no surprise that the Administration lists energy storage as a “cost-effective pathway” towards hitting his carbon-reduction target. 

The Goldendale Pumped Storage Project is uniquely positioned to curtail the shortage of storage and facilitate carbon-free goals at both the state and federal level. Washington Governor Jay Inslee has become a bit of a champion for the project himself recently stating: “We’re bringing on what may be the Western hemisphere’s largest pumped storage facility… Being able to have a grid system that is fully compatible with renewable energy…so we can store the energy when we’re not using it, is extremely important.”  

Unlike the intermittent nature of other clean energy sources like wind and solar, pumped storage enables grid operators to access reliable electricity around the clock. The Goldendale Storage project would generate upwards of 1,200 MW with 25,506 MWh of storage in its own right – enough to power most of the homes in the Seattle metro area carbon-free, renewable electricity for 12 hours a day annually. 

Currently, the project is awaiting approval from FERC for the necessary permits, but in the meantime, we’ve felt compelled to write a paper outlining the benefits and urgent need for storage facilities like the Goldendale Storage Project.  Energy Fairness is hopeful that this project and others like it can serve as a primary tool for grid operators and utilities as they work to meet clean energy goals and keep the lights on in the years to come. To view our paper, please visit our website here.