Energy companies abandon proposed South Dakota pumped storage project in Gregory County
“Right now, I’m in shock, and I can’t believe it. I guess I’ve always been kind of a pessimist and prepared for the worst,” a local landowner said.
BURKE, S.D. — A controversial energy megaproject proposed in central South Dakota is no longer, according to a joint statement from Missouri River Energy Services and MidAmerican Energy.
“While pumped storage technology is proven and the need for energy storage solutions is essential for regional reliability, MidAmerican and MRES have decided not to pursue the project at this time,” the statement reads. “MidAmerican and MRES made this decision based on the same due diligence we employ in every project we do. We will continue to evaluate all options — including pumped storage — for reliable, affordable, and resilient energy resources to serve the residents and businesses that rely on us.”
The proposed pumped storage project, set to leave a footprint in Gregory and Charles Mix counties, was sold as a tax boon for local counties and schools and an important way to keep the energy grid stable as energy generation continues to change.
It would have used an upper reservoir and the Missouri River below to store renewable energy as potential hydropower in a sort of water battery, pushing the river water uphill when solar and wind are plentiful and letting the water downhill at times of higher demand.
The project was on the cusp of the study phase of federal permitting and would not have come into commission until the mid-2030s.
Tim Blodgett, the vice president of communications with Missouri River Energy Services, said it was the financial risk of such a large-dollar investment, rather than landowner opposition, that led to the company re-thinking its investment.
"The market for long-duration storage is too immature at this point to put a finger on what the value of that is in the 2030s," he said. "We believe it is still needed from a reliability standpoint, but the risk with the financial investment was really what made that decision."
Citizens Against Missouri River Pumped Storage Project, a group of area landowners opposed to the project, said that no matter the reason for the change of course, "we trust that public participation in the project has led to a better outcome for our communities and our river."
Landowners around the area banded together to oppose the project, referencing concerns over water quality, recreation and property rights, among other issues
“Right now, I’m in shock, and I can’t believe it. I guess I’ve always been kind of a pessimist and prepared for the worst,” said Doug Tieszen, a local landowner whose farm would have come underwater in the proposed project. “All I can say is I’ve just been so amazed at the groundswell of local support.”
Blodgett said the company would not be pursuing a pumped storage project at that specific site, but would potentially look into the technology elsewhere.
Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or email@example.com.