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With FERC license in hand, Mont. pumped-storage project set for construction

Federal energy regulators licensed a 400-MW pumped-storage project in Montana that is expected to help balance electricity supply as more variable renewable resources are added to the grid.

The Gordon Butte Pumped Storage facility, which is owned by Absaroka Energy LLC and Rocky Mountain Power, will be built in Meagher County, Mont., and draw water from a tributary of the South Fork of the Musselshell River. Construction is expected to start in 2018.

FERC said the project would contribute to grid stability and help restart fossil energy plants during a blackout. It should be able to generate about 1.3 million MWh annually.

Montana is attempting to double solar development by 2025, and the state has more than 2,000 MW of wind projects under development, according to a Dec. 14 FERC licensing order. Located less than 6 miles from the Colstrip transmission lines, the pumped-storage project will be able to access markets in Montana and throughout the region, Absaroka Energy said.

The project will have a levelized annual operating cost of around $173.2 million, or $133.23 per MWh, according to FERC. (FERC Docket No. P-13642)