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$3.6B hydro-storage project planned near shuttered Navajo coal plant

Daybreak Power Inc. said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accepted the company's application for a permit to build a 2,200-MW pumped storage facility near Page, Ariz., to bring renewable power to western cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

The proposed $3.6 billion Navajo Energy Storage Station would use existing transmission infrastructure near the retired coal-fired Navajo generating station and "serve as an anchor of economic development as the Navajo Nation transitions to renewable energy resources," the company said in a Jan. 17 news release.

"Everybody knows we're going to need massive amounts of storage to integrate high levels of renewables, and we need to do it smart and cost-effectively," Daybreak Power CEO Jim Day said. "The Navajo Energy Storage Station does that. This project marks a turning point for this region to begin its transition off of coal and onto solar and wind at a scale never seen before, here or anywhere else."

The proposed project would use water from Lake Powell and a new reservoir on a plateau above the lake to create a massive energy-storage system, the company said. The facility would use solar and wind energy to pump the water to the upper reservoir and would release it through turbines to generate electricity to power major cities in the region during peak demand periods late in the day and into the night, according to the news release.

"Unlike other proposed pumped storage projects in the region, the NESS project would not dam any rivers, inundate sacred places or deplete precious groundwater," the company said. "It was sited to minimize impacts on endangered species, steer clear of culturally significant sites and avoid adverse impacts on recreation."

Launched in 2018, the Vienna, Va.-based developer of energy storage projects said it has nearly 50,000 MWh of pumped storage hydropower capacity in its pipeline, including the proposed 1,540-MW Next Generation Pumped Storage Project on Lake Mead.

Pumped hydro had an installed capacity of nearly 23 GW in the U.S. as of 2018, 96% of the energy storage in the nation, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence.