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First pumped-storage project approved for Alberta, Canada

The development of pumped storage is seen as a critical feature for Albert's electricity, to balance increasing production from intermittent renewables such as wind.

The Alberta Utilities Commission, the energy regulator serving the central Canadian province, approved on 2 August the development of the 75 MW Canyon Creek pumped-storage project by Turning Point Generation, a subsidiary of renewable energy developer WindRiver Power Corporation. It is the first large-scale energy storage project to be approved in Alberta.

The development of pumped storage, such as Canyon Creek, will be a critical feature of Alberta’s electricity grid as the grid accommodates increasing production from renewable generation, particularly large-scale wind, according to the developer. “The intermittent and variable nature of renewables requires a complementary source of responsive and reliable generation to balance the system in real time,” said Kipp Horton, President and CEO of Turning Point’s parent company, WindRiver Power Corporation. The timing of the Canyon Creek project also coincides with the introduction of a capacity market in Alberta, a market that, in the view of Peter Bubik, technical development lead at Turning Point, is well-suited to the project. “We’re excited about the potential of this made-in-Alberta storage solution to offer a variety of products and benefits to the grid and electricity consumers. We’re also very proud of the contribution the project will make to the local and regional economies, including substantial capital investments, near-term development and construction jobs and long-term operations and maintenance jobs,” Bubik added.

The developer said that the project would have a limited adverse environmental impact as it would be operated as a closed-loop, off-stream system without connection to existing natural water bodies and would utilize existing site infrastructure from a decommissioned open pit coal mine

The Canyon Creek project, which is to be located near the town of Hinton, will be capable of supplying power for up to 37 hours at full output. The project will comprise two purpose-built reservoirs, each with a surface area of 40 ha and a storage capacity of 2.75 x 106 m3, a buried steel water pipeline, approximately seven km long and 2.5 m in diameter, connecting the two reservoirs and a powerhouse and pump station at the lowest end of the penstock that house both turbine-generators and high-volume pumps. The reservoirs would be created by utilizing existing topography and building a berm of less than 15 m.

The preliminary design indicates that the powerplant will consist of three 25 MW Pelton turbines, while the pump house would consist of four 16 MW three-stage horizontal axis pumps. Water would be sourced from the river Athabasca to fill the reservoirs initially. A small amount of water would be required from time to time to replace water lost through evaporation and leakage. The plant would be connected to the Alberta Interconnected Electric System by a 138-kV transmission line. Turning Point indicated that the interconnection would be the subject of a separate application.

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