BPA to Test Out Aquifer Remedy
by Hilary Milam
Washington -- The Bonneville Power Administration is exploring an unconventional way to help manage the oversupply conditions that can inundate the region with excess electricity during the spring and summer runoff seasons.
BPA announced Wednesday a new partnership with the United Electric Co-op and the Southwest Irrigation District, both based near the Snake River in south-central Idaho, to test the feasibility of strategically timing aquifer recharge procedures to absorb some of the oversupply power.
Essentially, the parties want to find out if it is possible to dispatch aquifer pumps to increase pumping in early morning off-peak hours, and to decrease pumping during daytime on-peak hours.
This is a twist on the conventional practice of pumped storage, where water is pumped to higher elevations and stored until needed for hydropower generation.
The pilot is being conducted with a small, 1.8-MW pump in Cassia County, Idaho, as a "proof-of-concept field test." Before the process can be deemed successful, BPA will have to vet the technology involved and determine whether the commercial arrangements will work. There is as much as 100 MW of potential pumped aquifer recharge load in the region that could eventually qualify.
"This project may prove the potential of using this kind of electricity demand to help integrate wind in the Pacific Northwest," according to a statement issued by BPA. "If so, much larger loads could be captured and dispatched."
If successful, it could be a mutually beneficial fix. SWID would be able to extend the months it can pump water from the Snake River for aquifer recharge. Currently, the district typically pumps from April to October, but it could be extended into the shoulder months of March and November. Doing so would save SWID some of the costs of deep well pumping.
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