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Colossal energy storage project in Columbia Gorge will be union-built

Colossal energy storage project in Columbia Gorge will be union-built

A massive renewable energy storage facility in the Columbia River Gorge will be built with union labor, thanks to a newly signed agreement between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and two area building trades councils. The proposed project is expected to cost $2.1 billion to construct and will employ over 3,000 workers during a four-year construction period.

When it’s complete it would solve one of the biggest challenges of wind and solar power—how to store electricity for use when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. The Goldendale Energy Storage Project would use electricity from nearby wind and solar to pump water from a lower reservoir to a higher one, later releasing that water from the upper reservoir to turn hydroelectric turbines and generate electricity. It’s a closed-loop system known as pumped-storage hydropower, and projects like it are in development around the country.

This one would be built on private land on the former site of the Golden Northwest aluminum smelter, half a mile from the John Day Dam on the Washington side of the Columbia River and about eight miles due southeast of Goldendale, in Klickitat County, Washington.

The smelter once employed 500 members of United Steelworkers Local 8147, but it closed in 2003, the victim of an electricity price crisis in an era of ill-conceived electricity deregulation. The site has remained vacant since then.

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