400 MW Gordon Butte Pumped Storage Project: Alstom To Supply Equipment

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Alstom and GB Energy Park LLC have agreed that Alstom will supply equipment for a very large pumped storage project planned in Montana.


“We’re excited to welcome Alstom to be the equipment supplier for the facility. Absaroka Energy is committed to continuing Montana’s leadership of integrating renewable energy resources and providing reliable energy to the region,” explained Carl Borgquist, president of Absaroka Energy.

The Gordon Butte Project will have an installed capacity of 400 MW and could generate 1,300 GWh per year. Reservoirs 1,000 feet wide and 4,000 feet long with depths up to 75 feet will be employed. The project will support the grid for the Northern Great Plains and Pacific Northwest, by providing energy storage and stability. The technology that will be installed can generate electricity in a matter of seconds, rather than what the old technology’s responsiveness was, which was measured in minutes. The project location is south-central Montana on private land.

Amid the flurry of stories about energy storage in the form of batteries like the Tesla Powerwall, it seems pumped storage press has been marginalized somewhat. (There was, however, a fairly recent story on CleanTechnica about a much bigger project in California.)

This particular project has a website of its own, www.gordonbuttepumpedstorage.com, so you can check out any updates or peruse other info if you are interested.

The complete project team is fairly large:

  • Absaroka Energy LLC (Executive Team)
  • McMillen Jacobs Associates (Steve Padula)
  • Garcia and Associates (Pamela Spinelli)
  • Hyrdo Solutions Inc. (Tom and Luke Osborne)
  • DOWL HKM (Phillip Odegard)
  • Stanley Consultants (Martin Weber)
  • HDR Inc. (Ed Weber, Rick Miller)
  • Aqua Energie LLC (Kevin Candee)
  • Cobb Crest LLC (Steve Laufenberg)
  • Pascoe Energy (Bill Pascoe)
  • Barnard
  • Alstom Power Inc.

There is over 90 GW of pumped storage in operation around the world, so it is a proven technology. It also has been utilized in various forms for over 100 years.

Image Credit: Gordon Butte Project

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book

Holiday Wish Book Cover

Click to download.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Jake Richardson

Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JakeRsol

Jake Richardson has 1008 posts and counting. See all posts by Jake Richardson

15 thoughts on “400 MW Gordon Butte Pumped Storage Project: Alstom To Supply Equipment

  • Montana gets cold in winter. Won’t the lakes freeze over?

    • So does Lake Michigan. The Ludington Pumped Storage plant has been working for over 40 years pretty well. It just recently got approved for expansion. About the project:


      Ice formation at critical points can be managed. One big problem is fish entrapment and impingement at intakes. Another is fish and wildlife management in general, i.e. does the area surrounding the pumped storage benefit from tourism economically versus the economic impact of the facility. Not to mention environmental impact. This problem can also be managed. It’s a problem for any large scale water intake like steel mills, maybe battery manufacturing plants (and casinos), and power plants that use a lot of water

  • Storage is the answer and for areas where water is scarce such as the desert SW, another option is rail energy storage. Apparently a system is being built right now in Nevada that uses loaded down rail cars that are towed up railroad tracks and then when energy is needed, the trains go back down generating electricity from the brakes.

    • Have you seen an update in the last few months?

      It’s an interesting idea but I’m not sure how practical.

      A much steeper, even vertical route using a winch rather than train engine with traction issues might make a lot more senes.

      Lower large weights over cliffs. No track. You could store extra “energy” easily at the top or bottom.

      • These suggestions suffer from

        • Suffer from failure of completion?

          • Bear Swamp was completed in the early 1970’s, I believe.

  • I hope the consulting engineers on this project have some geologists working with them. These pumped storage proposals often ignore what the underlying bedrock geology looks like. Sedimentary formations, like limestone, often have advanced Karstification; and huge basins like these would pile megatons of water on top of a rock formation with the characteristics of Swiss cheese. Having a massive sinkhole failure sort of negates the energy efficiency of pumping the water up there in the first place

    • Do you know of any which have failed, Larry?

      • Bob: I’m not familiar with any pumped storage basins which have failed. I AM familiar with 3 wastewater stabilization pond systems [Cities of Altura, Stockton, and Lewiston, MN} in S.E. Mn that failed over a period of 30 years while I was Regional Manager of the MN Pollution Control Agency there. The WW stabilization ponds are a LOT shallower and don’t hold nearly as much water as these proposed basins would (these proposed basins would have substantially more weight on the floor of the basin). Sedimentary rocks don’t support mega tonnages of water very well. I believe Fla. has had similar problems with basin failures. During my tenure in S.E. MN there was an engineering proposal for pumped storage to take Miss. R. water and pump it on top of the bluffs along the Miss. R. for later return through turbines to generate electricity during peak demand periods. It never happened because those bluffs are all composed of limestone and sandstone (both subject to erosion and creation of open conduits along fracture lines). Like I said in my post–I hope they have some good geologists involved with the project. “An ounce of prevention is worth several pounds of cure”

  • Could a completely empty, air tight, very large building store compressed air to be released later to turn generators as a storage medium? Perhaps a number of such buildings, each very long and very wide and of some reasonable height. Maybe cheaper than railroad cars and rails or other heavy objects, no ice to contend with, no geology problems, can be located where height above surrounding ground is not required.
    Possible problems:Heat generated during compression would have to be dissipated (or perhaps used to power Stirling engines). Cold generated during pressure release if to severe could pose a problem for generators.

    • Yes, it’s called Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES). We have one CAES facility in Macintosh Alabama. There have been plans for building CAES in underground formations such as salt domes and caverns. But, as you point out, a lot of the energy is lost as heat during compression.

      There may be a large CAES facility built in Utah in the next couple of years. People are working on it. But there’s no guarantee it will be built.

      One company is attempting to develop CAES for short term storage. They use a spray of water into the compression cylinder to extract most of the heat, store it, and use it to reheat (expand) the air before it was used to drive the turbine.

      There is one project that is attempting to use electric train engines to pull cars of rock up elevated slopes, storing electricity on the way up and producing electricity on the way down. And there’s another project that uses more of a “ski life” approach with cars full of rocks suspended from a cable. Neither seem to have generated much interest.

      There’s another idea where someone purposes cutting a huge solid rock cylinder into a solid rock formation. Force water under it when there is extra electricity. Use the water stored under very high pressure to produce electricity when needed. Again, no one seems to have turned up for the parade.

      Batteries are getting cheap. Batteries (and perhaps flywheels) will likely take over the grid smoothing and short term time-shifting of electricity. Later we’ll need to figure out deep storage solutions, but we’re many years from that need at this time.

      • The “rock train”. If that is anywhere close to providing affordable storage I’d recommend someone else working out the cost for a system using the same principle but with lower infrastructure costs.

        Imagine one or several electric winches positioned at the edge of a cliff, open pit mine or vertical mine shaft. Use large weights hanging off into space for energy storage, blocks of concrete/whatever. Eliminate the cost of tracks and cars, reduce the real estate needs.

        It should be possible to store energy long term by detaching a weight from the winch when it reaches the top and moving it to a storage yard. Send the winch hook down to grab another block. Capacity for deep storage could be increased by adding more blocks to the storage yard.

        Grandfather clock.

Comments are closed.