Gregory County could have produced some super-clean electricity by embracing a proposed pumped-storage project that would have used wind power to pump Missouri River Water uphill into a 40-billion-gallon reservoir that could then release the power downhill through a hydroelectric plant when the grid needs more juice. But since we can only take land away from Indians and from farmers standing in the way of rich Iowa Republicans and outside oil profits, the Gregory County Pumped Storage Project won’t proceed:
MidAmerican Energy and Missouri River Energy Services have pulled the plug on their proposed Gregory County Pumped Storage Project.
In a news release today (May 23, 2023), the two companies said, “While pumped storage technology is proven and the need for energy storage solutions is essential for regional reliability, the companies have decided not to pursue the project at this time.” They went on to say, “MidAmerican and MRES made this decision based on the same due diligence we employ in every project we do” [Jody Heemstra, “Gregory County Pumped Storage Project Nixed,” DRG News, 2023.05.23].
Jerry Oster of WNAX reports that the companies decided the project was too financially risky. Evidently MidAmerican Energy and Missouri River Energy Services are just the latest entrepreneurs to fail to find a business case for the project. The Gregory County Pumped Storage Project has floated around in proposal-land since 1981 and is even written into state law (SDCL 46A-1-2.1) as a water resources project that the Legislature has deemed “necessary for the general welfare of the people of this state”, but in 42 years, no one has decided to invest in moving real earth and water to build this reservoir.
Local opponents worried that the project would bring lots of new people to Platte, disturb fishing and wildlife, and put rural water availability at risk. You’d think most towns strapped for cash would welcome an influx of workers, as former Platte legislator and GCPSP opponent Lee Qualm did when he supported the Keystone XL pipeline. Water supply seems a curious concern: the current inflow into Lake Francis Case of 27,355 cubic feet per second would fill the proposed 40-billion-gallon power reservoir 2.26 days, and every drop that the pumped storage project uses would eventually be put right back into circulation.
But if the ROI isn’t there, the Gregory County Pumped Storage Project will remain an unfunded figment of our hydroelectric imagination.