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A Big Hydro Project in Big Sky Country

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A pumped hydro project in southcentral Montana could provide electric utilities in the Pacific Northwest with a US billion-dollar, 400-megawatt facility that mimics both a battery and a fast-start natural gas-fired plant.

The Gordon Butte pumped storage project received its 50-year operating license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in December 2016. The project holds a water right issued by the state of Montana to withdraw water from a nearby stream to fill the project reservoirs, and replace water lost to evaporation and seepage.

According to Carl Borgquist, president and CEO of Bozeman, Montana-based Absaroka Energy, an engineering contract with a design-construction firm is almost complete. But the project is by no means assured.