Questions, concerns arise over proposed Big Chino hydroelectric plant
Initial reservoir fill would require billions of gallons
Numerous questions and concerns were raised at a Citizens Water Advocacy Group meeting March 10, one of which was from Garin Reay, who said he lives no more than 20 miles from the proposed Big Chino Pumped Storage Project.
Reay said he wanted to know whether or not the electricity from the proposed hydroelectric plant would be used in other states. With him that close to the proposed site and his well 200 feet down getting water from the area, he is personally and practically involved in the project, he said.
“I may be convinced if the power was going to stay in Arizona,” Reay said. “If it’s going to give cheaper power to California and Nevada and they’re going to take my groundwater from it, count me out.”
The electricity could potentially stay in Arizona, but it depends on who the partners are for the project and who decides to buy the electricity, said Project Engineer and Director Brian Studenka of ITC Grid Development. It’s a sizeable enough project that it could potentially go into other states and conversations are currently being held in terms of commercial arrangements and determining who potential partners may be, Studenka said.
A previous story in The Daily Courier noted that in February, ITC Holdings, a subsidiary of Fortis Company, appeared in Prescott at a meeting regarding the proposed project. If completed, it would generate and store 20,000 megawatts per hour of electricity for 10 hours a day during periods of low demand and store energy for pumping 12 to 14 hours per day during peak demand.
Another story by The Daily Courier reported that in February, the Prescott City Council unanimously approved a resolution allowing the city to become involved in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s hearing on ITC Holdings’ application over the city’s land and water rights in the Big Chino Basin. The resolution notes the town has an interest in making sure the project’s development does not negatively impact the city’s holdings.
Initial fill of the reservoir would take about 28,000 acre-feet of water from the Big Chino aquifer. That comes out to a little more than 9 billion gallons of water.
Further, engineers anticipate loss of about 1,200 acre-feet of water per year from evaporation and leakage.
At Saturday’s meeting, Studenka said the project’s estimated overall efficiency would be about 82 percent with two out of 10 generated electrons being used to operate the facility to pump water. It’s a rough number ITC holdings is comfortable with giving and the details would depend on the final design, he said.
Mike Mladejovsky, who owns property in Paulden, suggested ITC holdings start with an already existing reservoir such as Lake Mead or Lake Powell and pumping that uphill instead of bringing groundwater to the surface, which results in losing a lot of it to evaporation.
“You don’t increase the surface area of the evaporative loss and you don’t have the issues with using the very valuable groundwater for this project,” Mladejovsky said.
The reason they don’t do that is because it’s very challenging to use existing reservoirs for a project such as the Big Chino Pumped Storage Project, Studenka said. A similar project hasn’t been built to this scale in 20 to 30 years, he said. There are quite a few existing pumped storage facilities in the United States though, Studenka said.
When asked about the plan to offset any damage to the Verde River during the initial fill, Studenka said they were not ready to give what the plan to offset the fill is.
“It’s not going to be one magic bullet to figure this out, it’s going to be a multiple approach to try to offset that fill and that’s our intent,” he said. “That’s our goal with this.”
Anita Goss, former president of the Verde River Citizens Alliance, said she noticed there wasn’t anything in the project’s areas of study about the Verde River.
Doing so would probably add in millions to the study area and as such, her recommendation would be dropping the project or looking at other options for having energy generated from the area, Goss said.
“The Verde River is one of the few rivers that we have and we will do everything to protect it. There is not a possibility that you can take 28,000 acre-feet from the groundwater aquifer and not impact the Verde River. You will not have that as an option,” she said. “There are lots of communities, the Big Chino may look like it’s way out away from everybody but … it is the beginning of the Verde River and if you take 28,000 acre-feet for fill, forget it. You’re looking at an Environmental Impact Statement, you’re looking at years and years and believe me, all of the communities will protest because you’re taking away their livelihood, their lifeblood from the enjoyment of that river from all of the other benefits, all of the irrigators, everything else.”
For more information about ITC, visit www.itc-holdings.com. For more information about the Big Chino Pumped Storage project, visit www.bigchinovalleypumpedstorage.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.