A 360MW pumped storage project planned for California, US, may not need a federal license, the developers have reported. 

A recent ruling from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) confirms that if Bison Peak Pumped Storage – a closed loop pumped storage hydropower project – supplies its planned 1300 acre-feet of fill water from groundwater sources, then a license would not be required under the Federal Power Act.

Removed from federal licensing, the project would require only county-level and state level permitting, giving it a distinctive development advantage over other proposed pumped storage projects. Voluntary federal licensing would, however, remain an option. The project currently holds a preliminary permit from FERC.

Project developer Gridflex Energy believes that the project can rely solely on groundwater because its combination of high head (a vertical drop greater than 2100ft) and moderate sizing (360MW of power with six hours of storage) minimizes the water requirement to just 1300 acre-feet.

Gridflex says the FERC determination is just one more advantage to the Bison Peak project, citing as well its location next to thousands of megawatts of current and planned wind and solar facilities in the Tehachapi renewable energy zone, ideal topography, low cost compared to other proposals, and ideal size for the market.

Another possible source of fill water for the project would be the nearby Los Angeles Aqueduct. Based on previous FERC determinations, drawing fill water from this source should allow the project to remain outside of the mandatory FERC umbrella. However, use of this source would require the cooperation of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), which is also considering new pumped storage options.

Gridflex considers LADWP, Southern California Edison, and Pacific Gas & Electric as potential customers for the project, which has a target operational year of 2025 or 2026.