Bozeman Talk on Gordon Butte Energy Storage Project

RobG

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When I'm not acting like a hippie on the internet I'm the chair of the Central MT Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Paul Bockus and Carl Borgquist from Absaroka Energy will be giving a presentation on the Gordon Butte Project to us on Wednesday, May 6th from 5:30-7pm at 108 EPS, on campus at MSU Bozeman. It should be non-technical and may be of interest if you are interested in the good, bad, and ugly of renewable energy.

You can find more about the project at their website and also from a BDC article "Planned Meagher County hydro storage project could buffer wind, solar surges." It seems crazy at first glance to use electricity to pump water into a upper reservoir and then create electricity by discharging it into a lower reservoir, but it actually works well under some circumstances.

The complete announcement is below.
IEEE Central Montana Section
Monthly Meeting Announcement

When: Wednesday, May 6th, 2015, 5:30PM for Pizza, Talk at 6:00PM
Where: 108 EPS on the MSU Campus
Who: Mr. Paul Bockus with Mr. Carl Borgquist
What: Gordon Butte Project

Mr. Paul Bockus is Business Development Director for Absaroka Energy. He will be joined by the president of Absaroka Energy, Mr. Carl Borgquist, to discuss the Gordon Butte Project. The Gordon Butte project is a pumped storage hydroelectric project located in central Montana near Martinsdale.

"One of the issues facing renewable energy in Montana is storing the energy produced during periods of low demand such as night. Pumped storage is one method to store this energy so it can be used during peak demand. With pumped storage, during the periods of low demand, excess electricity is used to pump water to an upper reservoir. When the electricity is needed the water from the upper reservoir is discharged through a turbine into the lower reservoir.
The Gordon Butte Hydro Pumped Storage Facility will consist of upper and lower closed-loop reservoirs connected by an underground concrete and steel-lined hydraulic shaft. Each reservoir will be approximately 4,000 feet long and 1,000 feet wide with depths of 50 to 75 feet. As currently designed, an underground powerhouse with four turbine-generators would be located at the bottom reservoir. These generators would provide an installed capacity of 400 megawatts, allowing for an estimated annual energy generation of 1300 gigawatt hours. This facility will provide ancillary and balancing capabilities to Montana’s emerging renewable energy industry, as well as, provide multiple services to facilitate stability, reliability, growth and longevity to existing energy infrastructure and resources in the state and region."


Please RSVP on the section website at:
http://ewh.ieee.org/r6/montana/
 

Cornell2012

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Is this going to be recorded? I'd be interested in seeing more about this, but won't be able to make it in person.
 

RobG

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Actually at the request of the regional folks I have recorded the last two, but then they said they weren't ready to upload them. They might be now - I'll let you know.
 

Nameless Range

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I don't know much about renewable energy, but last week was Tesla's big announcement about the PowerWall. It seems like that could be a game changer in terms of renewable energy.

Each reservoir will be approximately 4,000 feet long and 1,000 feet wide with depths of 50 to 75 feet. As currently designed, an underground powerhouse with four turbine-generators would be located at the bottom reservoir

Sounds like a couple pretty big reservoirs. I wonder if their is any heartburn over using that much water. I know there are fights over water constantly in that area
 

Cornell2012

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Sounds like a couple pretty big reservoirs. I wonder if their is any heartburn over using that much water. I know there are fights over water constantly in that area

The thing is, it doesn't really consume water, except what gets lost to evaporation (an incentive to make the reservoirs deep to reduce surface area). The reservoir will get partially replenished by rainwater (essentially free energy from the sky in a setup like this). After the initial fill-up, it shouldn't require that much additional water input. I believe a number of these pumped hydro storage facilities put liners in the reservoirs so that none of it seeps into the ground in order to further minimize water usage.
 

RobG

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It does seem like chasing your tail. After seeing the project announcement last year I looked into it a bit. Round trip efficiency is reportedly 70-85% which is way better than I expected. This is an old technology generally used to help nuclear plants run more efficiently. You can't turn off nuclear plants when you don't want to use them so the reservoirs are used to store the energy during off-peak hours. Since nuclear isn't popular in the states we don't see pumped storage used much but it is used in Japan for about 10% of their electricity. Using them to buffer the erratic nature of solar and wind is relatively new.

One pumped storage facility in North Wales has 6 generators, each of which can deliver 317 MW in 10 seconds.

I don't know what the effect on wildlife will be, but it will create two big watering holes for sure.
 

----

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Sounds like a couple pretty big reservoirs. I wonder if their is any heartburn over using that much water. I know there are fights over water constantly in that area

From the article-

The project has a water right that Carl Borgquist, president of Absaroka Energy, said would not deplete the watershed, taking water only during the month of high runoff.

There's obviously going to be some strain on the water in the area, but like Cornell said, it should be manageable.

Does anyone know what ever happened to the one that was supposed to go in in the Geyser/Stanford area? I heard about that for years and nothing ever happened as far as I know.

It's an interesting management of energy for sure.
 

RobG

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I don't know much about renewable energy, but last week was Tesla's big announcement about the PowerWall. It seems like that could be a game changer in terms of renewable energy.

I finally glanced at that article and video.. fluff there but the Tesla site has some info. The pics make it look like a small and cute thing you plug into an outlet, but it is 51" tall, 34" wide, 7" deep and 220 pounds.

I do not know how much of an advantage this has over traditional lead acid battery storage (although when the Li ion battery catches on fire it will temporarily reduce your heating bill). In general, battery technology is making incremental improvements, hoping for a breakthrough. The charging efficiency is listed at 92% and from what I saw lead acid is 85% depending on conditions. You have to figure inverter efficiency on top of that so we are back int he 80% range...
 

npaden

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Interesting.

Maybe we could rig up a ocean sized setup here in West Texas somewhere that could store up all the energy generated by all the big wind turbine farms in the spring when demand is at an annual low and then drain the sucker down throughout the summer when the wind doesn't blow and demand is at a annual peak.

Oh wait that doesn't make sense, kind of like the huge wind turbine projects don't make sense...
 

Gr8bawana

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While I'm all for renewable energy I sometimes wonder about how they pick locations to put these windfarms. This one was put in Spring Valley in White Pine county right in the middle of prime wintering grounds for deer and elk. I don't know what effect it had on the Antelope that live there which we have hunted before, It can't be good.
There are places down here in the southern part of the state that are so desolate they would have no impact.http://onyourownadventures.com/hunttalk/attachment.php?attachmentid=47327&stc=1&d=1432048591
 

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RobG

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I wrote this a while back but didn't want to bore y'all.

Regarding water usage, I don't think it will be a problem for fish or farmers. They can take it during the spring runoff when it won't cause problems with either. The biggest issue will be when they fill it up which will take three years. Once it is filled up it stays filled except for evaporation. The ponds are concrete lined. For maintenance they can move all the water into one pond.

This is way different than other pumped storage out there. Those systems are designed to pump water up at night and discharge it during the day. Basically someone has to walk outside at 6am and throw a big switch to change the pump into a generator. As I mentioned this is needed with nuclear plants since their power output is constant.

This systems switches from generate to pump in seconds. It is used to smooth out short term power spikes caused by wind fluctuations. If I remember the slide correctly, wind power can fluctuate 2000 MW over a couple hours. That is the same amount of power that would be used if 33 million people switched off a 60 watt bulb. That causes a huge problem with line stability because that power has to go somewhere. Or if everyone turns the light on there needs to be an instant on source of energy. It is an emerging technology, not just the same old thing in a different spot. There is a similar plant in Austria and a couple in the works in the U.S. but that's it. Right now the problem is handled in part using natural gas fired jet engines to adjust their output based on updates every 4 seconds. It works, but you can't really store excess energy doing that.

The main issue with locating these things and wind or solar farms is getting them to a big transmission line. This one is feasible because it is right next that huge 500 kV (1/2 million volt) line that runs from Coalstrip to the west coast. That's the line you go under on the road around Toston and also on I-90 west of garrison. That line is about at capacity during the day so you can't add much, but at night the west coast could send a ton back our way to be stored (I wish I could remember the amount).

I don't know what impacts the renewable energy will have on habitat. It is concerning. You get a good site and people object to putting in power line infrastructure. All energy is solar when you get down to it - but fossil fuels are millions of years of solar compressed into little bits. We've become used to the ease at which we can tap that and it is difficult to match that energy output using any other form of solar power in real time except nuclear.
 
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