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ARES files permit for rail energy storage

ARES Nevada LLC filed an application with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission announcing its intention to seek a permit under the Utility Environmental Protection Act to construct an Advanced Rail Energy Storage Regulation Energy Management Project on 156 acres managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the Carpenter Canyon area.

It would use a gravity-based energy storage system using electric shuttle trains operating on a single, steep-grade railroad track to store electric energy. Electricity from the grid would be used to power the locomotive uphill when power is abundant and then when energy is needed, locomotives descend the grade, with their motors operating as generators.

The application, filed May 2 by the Santa Barbara, Calif. based company, states the project will provide an estimated 12.5 megawatt hours of fast-response energy storage to assist in balancing the electrical supply. One megawatt is roughly enough to power 400 homes. Last summer the company announced it demonstrated the project on a small scale at wind farms in Tehachapi, Calif. The rail system would be used in conjunction with solar and wind facilities.

ARES filed an application for transportation and utility systems on federal lands with the BLM on Oct. 31. Once the BLM issues a final environmental document under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) ARES will file its application for a UEPA permit under state law.

Company officials, in announcing the project last summer, said the project would create over 300 jobs and construction could take years.

The junction of Highway 160 and Carpenter Canyon Road is in Nye County, right next to the Clark County line. Interim Nye County Community Development Director Darrell Lacy said the offices, switch yard and most facilities would be located in Nye County. The rail line would extend into Clark County. It will be a commercial demonstration project, he said.

ARES Chief Operating Officer Francesca Cava, in a March 25 article published on the Internet site Climate Wire, said the concept is similar to pump-storage hydroelectric systems using gravity and friction, except the train cars and rails don’t need a waterway or reservoir, making it attractive in arid regions like Nevada. Momentum from the train cars sends electrons back to the grid through a system of regenerative braking that uses the turning power of the wheels to generate electricity.

“Obviously to have this technology first developed and deployed in Southern Nevada is something we’re excited about,” VEA Chief Executive Officer Tom Husted is quoted saying in the on-line article. “Because we’re located in the Sun Belt this fits nicely into our grid and has the potential to further the renewable opportunities we have here.”

Climate Wire says Southern Nevada is in need of storage to accompany its ambitious renewable energy targets.

Valley Electric Association will construct new transmission facilities to serve the project, the application states. The right-of-way for the project will run southwest, down slope, connect to a VEA 230-kilovolt transmission line, until reaching the existing Gamebird Road switch yard.

The PUC said a consumer session won’t be required on the project.

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