SMUD projects awarded grants totaling nearly $6.5 million to advance hydropower technologies
Two Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) hydroelectric projects were selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for negotiation leading to potential grant awards of nearly $6.5 million.
The New Slab Creek Powerhouse project would be awarded nearly $1.5 million under DOE’s Sustainable Small Hydropower program. SMUD is currently in the final stages of relicensing its 688-megawatt (MW) Upper American River Project (UARP). Under the new license, SMUD will begin releasing substantially higher flows from many UARP reservoir dams, including Slab Creek reservoir and dam. The higher flows released from Slab Creek dam, while designed to enhance aquatic habitat in the South Fork American River, also provide an opportunity to generate power from the released water. The new 5-MW powerhouse will provide approximately 15 gigawatt hours of renewable energy for California.
The 400 MW Iowa Hill pumped storage project, a proposed expansion of the UARP, could receive nearly $5 million under the Sustainable Pumped Storage Hydropower program. Pumped storage projects are energy storage systems that operate by pumping water from a lower reservoir into an upper reservoir, generally at night when electricity demand is low and then releasing water through a generator during periods of high demand. pumped storage projects are a re-emerging technology in the U.S., an ideal tool to manage variable energy resources like wind and solar energy supplies that cannot be managed directly by grid operators. The award would further SMUD’s investigation of the project by funding a portion of the geotechnical investigations of the mountain where the Iowa Hill pumped storage project water conveyance system and powerhouse would be located and by analyzing the value of ancillary services it would provide. Both tasks are critical in reducing financial uncertainty for the proposed project.
“By supporting innovative development of hydropower, the federal government is helping to make it more efficient and cost effective, while reducing our reliance on traditional fossil fuels. I applaud SMUD’s commitment to renewable energy and enhanced environmental performance of hydropower,” said Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, Calif.
Grants were awarded based on their ability to contribute to the development of innovative technologies that produce hydropower more efficiently, reduce costs and increase sustainable hydropower generation.
Both projects advance innovation in a traditional carbon-free resource. The pumped storage project has the additional benefit of increasing electric reliability during peak energy use times and also integrating additional renewable resources such as wind and solar into the SMUD electrical system.