CAISO Wary of Taking on Novel Pumped-Storage Facility

By Published On: September 8, 2006

A pumped-storage facility proposed for Lake Elsinore may be managed by the California Independent System Operator – although the grid operator’s board is skeptical of taking on the novel plan for new peak power generation and increased grid reliability. “Are they making progress with credible developers or are we wasting our time?” queried CAISO board chair Mason Willrich. Those proposing the facility are apparently without the wherewithal to build it themselves. According to the grid operator, they have asked federal regulators to approve a CAISO project takeover. The Lake Elsinore pumped-storage project, according to CAISO, could provide capacity, congestion relief, and other benefits (Circuit, Aug. 25, 2006). However, the developers’ plan to hand the proposed facility’s operation over to the grid operator raised serious questions for the board. “It’s a Pandora’s box,” said board member Ed Cazalet. He said that if federal regulators approve the plan to pass the Lake Elsinore pumped-storage facility off to the grid operator, then “Helms, Big Creek, Castaic” could be the next projects dumped in CAISO’s lap. Helms is a Pacific Gas & Electric pumped-storage project with about 1,050 MW of capacity. Castaic is a Los Angeles Department of Water & Power project with 1,250 MW of capacity. Big Creek is a traditional hydroelectric facility owned by Southern California Edison with a chain of reservoirs totaling 1,020 MW. CAISO staff promoted the unusual concept, claiming that building the project would have a $31 million capacity benefit. In other September 7 CAISO proceedings, a change to the Palo Verde-Devers 2 transmission project was approved. The grid operator staff noted that the change was due to unexpected growth in population – and thus demand – in Southern California’s Inland Empire. The basic change upgrades the proposed 230 kV line with a 500 kV line that connects to a line being built from Arizona. In other CAISO news, the grid operator’s ongoing market redesign project is over budget and running late. The cost is about $3 million over the estimate, said Brian Rahman, CAISO program manager for market redesign and technology upgrade projects. “The software is not where we want it,” added Rahman. He pointed out that the software is running about a month late, although it is doing what it is supposed to do.

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