Hydropower Could Generate Funding for Idaho Engineering Firm

By Tom Bacon

To hear of anything agreed upon unanimously in the current fractured, polarized Congress is almost in the fairy-tale realm - it just can't be true. But two bills - one of them written by eastern Washington G-O-P Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers - have sped through the legislative grinder with no opposition at all.

The measures will speed up licensing time for small hydropower projects and smooth out some of the regulatory hurdles than can stall them. That's good news for a Boise firm called Gridflex Energy which wants to build a pumped hydro storage reservoir near Prineville Oregon. The idea is to pump water from the Prineville Reservoir at night when power demand is low, and then release it through a new dam and turbines during the day when demand increases.

Three 50-megawatt turbines would generate enough electricity for roughly 30-thousand homes. Gridflex Energy has 15 such projects either running or on the drawing boards in Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Washington.

Just last spring, the U-S Department of Energy concluded that regulatory hurdles coupled with a weak market would make such projects iffy at best. But that study may be outdated now, with the new bills which sailed through Congress. Two other similar bills, written by Idaho Republican Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, will make it easier for the U-S Bureau of Reclamation to fit its vast network of canals, pipelines and aqueducts with small hydropower generators.
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