People have harnessed the power of water to do work for millennia. In the third century BCE, Greek engineer Philo Mechanicus is said to have designed the first horizontal waterwheel, the precursor to the hydroelectric turbines we’ve used to generate electricity for over a century.
The original idea may be old, but that doesn’t mean its latest incarnations can’t help with today’s pressing tasks like energy transition and efficient power distribution.
The latest hydroelectric technology developed by GE engineers allows power companies to build giant batteries to store renewable energy – known as pumped storage. And now, a West Coast utility has said it will use GE technology to generate electricity from water more efficiently, help maintain grid stability, improve power transmission, enable energy trade and facilitate the transition to more renewable energy.
All of these benefits are part of a new project between GE Renewable Energy and Avista Utilities, an energy company serving four states in the northwestern United States. GE engineers will upgrade four generator sets at the Long Lake Hydroelectric Generating Station on the Spokane River in Washington State. When completed, the facility – which opened in 1915 – will have an installed capacity of over 100 megawatts. This amount of energy is enough to meet the electricity demand of approximately 80,000 US homes.
But there is more. Increasing plant efficiency and performance will also help Avista meet the growing needs of the Energy Imbalance (EIM) market to better serve its customers.
The EIM is a real-time wholesale energy exchange that allows participants from anywhere in the western United States to buy and sell energy when needed, helping to maintain grid reliability by making excess renewable energy available to participating utilities at low cost rather than turning off generating units.
“Helping our customers meet the growing demands for flexibility is critical in today’s energy markets. It’s our close relationship with Avista Utilities that allows us to clearly understand their needs and work side-by-side to to provide a customized solution and execution planning that best meets their needs,” said Pascal Radue, president and CEO of GE Renewable Energy’s Hydro Solutions business.
The scope of the project includes the complete renewal and supply of turbine stators, poles, fans and other features. Long Lake’s first modernized unit is expected to enter service in late 2024 and the last in 2029.
Top image credit: The Long Lake Hydroelectric Generating Station on the Spokane River in Washington State. Image credit: Avista Utilities.