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How disruptive will a four-year construction program be?

Any disruption for residents will likely center around the generating station proposed near the Grand Avenue and Santa Rosa intersection.  We will bore the tunnel from Decker Canyon down through the mountain, using the excavated material to build the Decker Canyon reservoir, eliminating the need for trucking away most of the material.  There’ll be minimal use of Ortega Highway.  We will build a temporary coffer dam in the lake to excavate and construct the inlet/outlet on the lake bottom.  We’ll work with residents and local authorities to develop a schedule for construction and trucking.

Why was the proposed site selected?

Lake Elsinore and its adjacent mountain range provide the unique geographical topography required to construct a pumped storage facility. The sharp difference in elevation between two neighboring reservoirs allows the gravitational force to power turbine generators when water is transferred from the upper to the lower reservoir. Lake Elsinore will act as the lower reservoir while a proposed Decker Canyon will act as the upper reservoir. The topography required for pumped storage is rare, which is one of the primary limiting factors of constructing more pumped storage plants worldwide.

What is Pumped Storage?

Pumped storage is a tried and true “renewable” technology that has been in use since the 1920’s and remains the most efficient form of large-scale hydroelectric storage, with a lifespan over 100 years. This technology bridges the gap between energy production and energy consumption for every-day users and utilizes a greater amount of electricity generated through other renewable energy resources.
It features a two-way system that stores potential energy in the form of water in an upper reservoir, pumped from a lower reservoir. During peak consumption, stored potential energy is released from the upper reservoir, flowing downhill through a turbine to generate electricity. During off-peak usage, lower-cost electricity from the grid is used to reverse the turbines and pump the water back uphill.

Why is Energy Storage important to California?

Energy storage is critical to the utilization of intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. It enables us to store oversupply of solar and wind during periods it would otherwise be curtailed, and apply it to the grid when it is needed. One of the most important benefits energy storage provides is that it can be activated quickly to allow load balancing to facilitate grid stability and reliability, as well as to help prevent blackouts and other issues. On September 10, 2018, California passed Senate Bill No. 100 Chapter 312. This bill amends California’s renewable energy production goals for 100% of electricity to come from renewable energy sources by December 31, 2045.
Pumped storage is the most efficient method for storing large scale energy, comprising more than 96% of energy storage worldwide.

What employment and business opportunities will be available?

The LEAPS project will create almost 600 direct (mostly union) jobs over the 4-5 year construction phase. That equates to almost five million-person hours of employment. There will also be indirect employment and business opportunities in the Temescal Valley during and after construction. Once built, LEAPS will require 20-30 permanent employees for the operation and maintenance of the plant and facilities.

Won't the electricity go to San Diego? What's the benefit to Lake Eslinore residents?

Both SCE and SDG&E customers will benefit.  California needs more energy storage to maintain reliability as it transitions to greater amounts of renewable generation, which is mandates by law.  Flexible storage like LEAPS is needed to help manage this more complex electric grid.  Helping local authorities raise water levels and improve the health of the lake should also support the local economy.  The project will provide construction jobs and indirect jobs in the hospitality and service sectors.  As well, LEAPS will pay local and state taxes and fees and contribute through community partnerships.

What new facilities will be required?

One of the great benefits of pumped storage is that its infrastructure is mostly underground, consisting of penstock and a power station housing the turbines. These facilities are located between the two reservoirs and will be tunneled through the mountain range. The underground location will minimize the aesthetic impact. The upper reservoir, transmission lines, and the substation are the only above-ground infrastructure.

Is the transmission going to be visible, especially from my home?

Much of the transmission system will be veiled by hillsides and natural barriers.  Some towers will be visible from vantage points such as the 15 freeway, parts of Wildomar, and the Ortega highway intersection.  Our surveying team is developing photographic modeling of the proposed transmission routes from various vantage points to share with residents. These visual impacts can be found here: http://leapshydro.com/final-licensing-application/volume-18/

Will LEAPS cause muddy shorelines and hurt recreation and quality of life?

LEAPS has agreed to purchase billions of gallons (15,000 acre-feet) of high quality State Water Project (SWP) water through the EVMWD after the project application is approved.  This will increase the lake water level about three feet above what it would otherwise be.  We will also purchase water to replenish evaporative losses every year.  LEAPS won’t harm boaters, humans, fish or recreation on the lake as the inlet/outlet will be on the lake bottom.  The +/- 6-inch change in the lake level caused by operations can be mitigated with contouring.  We will not complete designs until after FERC licenses the project, and the final design will reflect input from local and state authorities as well as from the public.

What will be the impact on recreational use?

The LEAPS project operations will not pose any harm to boaters, humans, fish or recreation on the lake. In fact, daily operations will be mostly unnoticeable. LEAPS infrastructure is located deep beneath the earth and surface of the water. Researchers are optimistic that recreation will benefit from expected water quality improvements that LEAPS will bring to Lake Elsinore.

Do you have water and property rights for the projects?

When the FERC approves our Final License Application, LEAPS will be granted use of the water for project operation.

Why are you not holding any meetings to get public input?

LEAPS has received a great deal of public and agency input. We are committed to meeting with agencies, municipalities and others as directed by FERC and to holding an open house for potentially impacted residents. Now that we have filed our Final License Application, we are bound by the regulatory process and timelines. FERC’s application process provides opportunities for stakeholders to comment on our application and those comments are reviewed by FERC.

What environmental studies have you done to update the old application?

The LEAPS project proponents have done a significant amount of work to keep environmental studies and consultation with relevant agencies fresh in accordance with a 2015 directive from FERC allowing Nevada Hydro to update and refile relevant information from the previous Project 11858 application as part of a license application for this updated project. Currently new studies are in progress to reflect changes in the environment that FERC has determined necessary to update. The results of these studies will be available online as they are submitted to FERC on the Project Website and FERC’s document library.

How will the water level of Lake Elsinore fluctuate due to operation of LEAPS?

It’s anticipated that the water level will fluctuate no more than +/- 6 inches. LEAPS has agreed to supply additional water to Lake Elsinore to cover evaporative losses each year.  The water will be purchased by EVMWD who agreed to source and deliver upon availability.

Will the project's tranmission lines pose a fire hazard to the community and interfere with firefighting?

These are 500kV lines that have not been associated with wildfires.  They are equipped with advanced safety monitoring, which de-energize the lines during a wildfire event to enable safe firefighting nearby.  These lines shouldn’t be confused with the smaller distribution lines that have caused fires in California.  Nevada Hydro will work with the U.S Forest Service and CalFire to address firefighting requirements and develop a fire prevention protocol, potentially with a rigorous vegetation management program on the transmission right of way.  The creation of a new Decker Canyon reservoir will also provide a new source of water for fire suppression high on the mountain in the Cleveland National Forest.

Who decides on the Transmission routing and why does it require USFS involvement?

The proposed transmission routes for LEAPS are located primarily on Cleveland National Forest land, which is governed by the USFS. The USFS participates in our application process to evaluate proposed routes and works together with FERC to identify the route of least impact. They evaluate effects on accessibility, native species, visual disturbances, construction traffic and many other factors in their routing decision.

What sets pumped storage apart from other emerging storage technologies?

Storing large-scale energy poses many challenges including efficiency, feasibility cost, size and impact. The existing and emerging technologies vary drastically in their benefits and drawbacks. Batteries have made a lot of advancement in efficiency over the years but are still not commercially practical for large scale storage due to waste, lifespan and maintenance costs. Other technologies such as pumped air and flywheels have less desirable efficiency. Pumped storage has stood the test of time because it provides the very rare combination of energy storage efficiency in a large scale. This, in addition to the long lifespan and minimal impact is why pumped storage remains the most prominent energy storage technology worldwide.

Who is going to pay for construction of the project?

Construction funding will be provided by 100% private investment.

Will the generation project ever be built or is this just a way to connect the Los Angeles and San Diego grids?

The current FERC application clearly states that there will be no interconnection of the north and south transmission lines.
An earlier version of the project (#11858),  which also included pumped storage, did propose to act as a connector between the two energy markets.
The primary function of the current project is energy storage, with transmission transferring power to and from the grids.  The State needs energy storage – lots 0f it – to help achieve the legislated transition to renewable generation, which is not available 24/7.