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Lead equity investor secured for pumped-storage project in Montana, USA

Absaroka Energy has secured equity investment capital from fund manager Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners for the construction of the Gordon Butte pumped-storage hydro plant.

Absaroka Energy, a USA based renewable energy developer, announced on 8 July that it had secured equity investment capital from Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), a fund manager based in Denmark, towards the construction of the 400 MW Gordon Butte pumped-storage hydropower project in the northwestern state of Montana, USA.

The funding provided by CIP, through the Copenhagen Infrastructure III K/S fund, will help advance the development of the closed loop project in Meagher County, which is expected to be ready for construction in early 2020.

“Montana could be the epicentre of Northwest US energy generation potential when linked with the world class capacity and storage technology deployed at Gordon Butte, adding jobs and a new, long-term and sustainable tax base,” said Carl Borgquist, President of Absaroka Energy.

Absaroka Energy stated that it had to date secured the site and obtained water rights and permits including receipt in December 2016 from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) of an original licence for the construction and operation of the facility for a period of 50 years. In September 2018, the USA energy regulatory agency granted the project development company GB Energy Park a two-year extension to the construction deadline to December 2020.

The Gordon Butte project will be the first new pumped-storage project developed in the USA in the past 30 years and is designed to provide ancillary and balancing capabilities to Montana’s emerging renewable energy industry, as well as providing multiple services to facilitate stability, reliability, growth and longevity to existing energy infrastructure and resources in the state and region, the developer said. Absaroka Energy stressed that the off-stream nature of the project, constructed outside of any existing watersheds, would have a minimal environmental impact on the local watersheds and riparian ecosystems. In addition the construction of major associated transmission infrastructure will not be necessary as the project is located less than six miles from its interconnection to the Colstrip twin 500 kV transmission lines, the backbone of the Pacific Northwest’s power system, giving access to markets in Montana and throughout the region.

The upper and lower reservoirs, which will have a storage capacity of around 4.93 x 106 m3 each and will be approximately 1.2 km long and 305 m wide, with depths of 15 to 23 m, will be connected by an underground concrete and steel-lined hydraulic shaft. As currently designed, an underground powerhouse with three turbine-generators located at the bottom reservoir would generate an estimated annual output of 1300 GWh, utilizing an elevation difference of 312 m between the reservoirs. “The project will utilize best-in-class quaternary configuration of pump and turbine equipment provided by GE Renewable Energy allowing the plant to move quickly and seamlessly between pumping and generating, thus creating the most flexible, capable, and low-cost capacity to meet the daily energy needs of residential and commercial customers,” Absaroka Energy said in a press release. “As regional energy capacity becomes more constrained, the Gordon Butte facility will be a carbon neutral alternative to the types of natural gas facilities that many of the region’s energy providers are contemplating, and at a lower cost. Advanced pumped storage provides twice as much operational capacity as its nameplate capacity, is faster acting, is able to both ramp up and down, and does not carry the fuel costs and risks of natural gas-fired facilities”.

Absaroka Energy said it had secured equity investment capital for the project from CIP with the assistance of investment banking advisors Green Giraffe, Bostonia Partners, and Voltiq.