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BLM to hold public meeting on facility near Pahrump

The Bureau of Land Management is asking for public comment on a proposed Regulatory Energy Management facility near Pahrump.

The comment period is open through Nov.11. A public meeting will be held Wednesday Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. in the Pahrump Nugget Hotel and Casino Event Center, 681 S. Highway 160.

The proposed project is a 50-megawatt, gravity-based energy storage system that would be constructed on 72 acres of BLM-managed public land located southeast of Pahrump crossing Carpenter Canyon Road, officials said.

"BLM is hoping to receive public input on the environmental assessment, including any information that might have been missed," said Greg Helseth, RECO Southern Nevada project manager.

The system utilizes multiple electric locomotives to store or deliver electric energy into the regional electrical grid by using electricity from the grid to power the locomotives uphill and returning that electricity to the grid as the locomotives descend with their motors operating as generators.

Advanced Rail Energy Storage (ARES) will provide grid support for the electrical grid by offloading and returning energy very quickly, smoothing intermittent renewable resources such as wind and solar, according to a statement released by officials.

Francesca Cava, vice president of operations at ARES, said the system operates similarly to a pumped storage hydroelectric project by using the power of the gravity but without the use of water and in a less costly and more environmentally sound manner.

"Conceptually, ARES works much like a Prius automobile. It can take excess energy off the grid by using electric motors to move heavily-weighted trains slowly up a single railroad track. When the grid needs energy, ARES returns the stored energy by moving the train slowly downhill, with the electric motor now functioning as a generator. This project uses no fossil fuels and no water, produces no emissions or hazardous wastes, and sits lightly on the land," she said.

The $55 million project will also bring new jobs and an innovative technology business to Pahrump, Cava said.

"Working with the VEA as our host, we will provide an energy storage system that enables the electrical grid to be more stable. ARES is committed to utilizing local resources as much as possible. There will be 100 to 125 full-time employees during construction. ARES plans to contract these employees and services locally. During project operations, 15 to 16 full-time staff will be required, including operations control and monitoring, maintenance, security and support staff. Besides the staff on-site, ARES will have an administrative office in Pahrump."

The building operation is projected to kick off in 2017, when permits and the transmission connection process will be completed, officials said.

According to the environmental assessment released by the BLM, the proposed project is designed to balance variable energy demands and renewable energy contributions across an electrical grid system. The proposed project doesn't produce more energy than is introduced into its system; therefore it is not an electrical generation facility.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. Follow @dariasokolova77 on Twitter.

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