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Alberta regulator approves pumped storage project ahead of market redesign

The developer of a pumped storage hydroelectric facility in Alberta has received regulatory approval for what it says is the first large-scale facility of its kind as the Canadian province prepares to add a capacity market to its wholesale power market.

On Aug. 2 the Alberta Utilities Commission approved a proposal by Turning Point Generation, a unit of Alberta renewable energy developer WindRiver Power Corp., to build the proposed 75-MW Canyon Creek pumped storage facility, near Hinton, Alberta.

"The intermittent and variable nature of renewables requires a complementary source of responsive and reliable generation to balance the system in real time," WindRiver Power President and CEO Kipp Horton said in a news release Aug. 14. "Pumped hydro is a proven storage technology, deployed globally for decades, that accomplishes this balancing function, efficiently, sustainably and on a meaningful scale."

Alberta's grid operator, the Alberta Electric System Operator, is leading the development of a forward capacity market starting in 2021 as part of a long-term shift away from the coal-fired resources that are now the province's primary source of electricity.

The Canyon Creek project will include two manmade reservoirs, a powerhouse, a pump house and a penstock, or pipe, connecting the two reservoirs. The make and model of generators to be used has not been determined, but the project is being designed with 37 hours of storage capacity, according to the order. Turning Point will have to submit a separate application to the regulator for approval of a 138-kV transmission line to connect the project to the provincial grid.

Initially, water from the nearby Athabasca River will be used to fill the reservoirs, but the system will then operate as a closed loop, with water moved between the reservoirs through the penstock. (Alberta Utilities Commission Decision 22934-D01-2018)