Volume 5 Issue 5 May

Thinking Big to Transform the Grid

By Kris Polly

The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) owns and operates nearly 17,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines to fulfill its mission of delivering power from 57 federal dams to nearly 700 customer utilities. In our cover interview with Administrator and CEO Tracey LeBeau, we touch on challenges such as drought, endangered species issues, and load growth and discuss the ways in which WAPA’s existing footprint can be leveraged to promote electrification and the increased integration of renewables.

Next, we hear about two major proposed pumped storage projects in the American West. Matthew Shapiro, the CEO of rPlus Hydro, tells us about the White Pine Pumped Storage Project, a planned 1,000‑megawatt (MW) facility in Nevada, and Nicholas Sher of GreenGenStorage tells us about the Mokelumne Water Battery Project, a proposed 400 MW pumped storage facility east of Sacramento that would make use of two existing reservoirs. Both discuss topics such as licensing, gaining local buy-in, and the contributions their projects would make toward state renewable energy goals.

Hatch is a global engineering firm that is celebrating 100 years of involvement in hydropower. In our conversation with Allison Lunde, the company’s Midwest regional manager for hydropower and dams, we hear about the company’s notable achievements, several major recent projects, and how its work intersects with the energy transition.

We also speak with Jason Eddy of L&H Industrial, a 60‑year-old Wyoming-based industrial fabrication and repair company that has recently delved into hydro and aims to become a leading player in the industry.

Dating back to 1887, Turlock Irrigation District (TID) is the oldest irrigation district in California; it has also been a hydropower producer since 1923. Today, TID owns and operates the 203 MW New Don Pedro Dam as well as four small hydro units. In our conversation with TID’s chief operating officer, Brad Koehn, we learn about how the district’s hydro projects and its planned canal-spanning solar installations will fit into California’s energy future.

State and federal renewable energy goals, electrification initiatives, load growth, and climate-related volatility combine to make this a time of great change for the grid. As the interviews in this issue make clear, this is both a challenge and an opportunity for hydropower. Hydro facilities—both small and large, both decades old and brand new—can offer the dispatchable renewable electricity, energy storage, and ancillary services that the grid badly needs. As the grid changes, hydro is sure to be a major part of it.

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Hydro Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.