Energy Project in Kern County Hits Milestone; Local Project Officially Dropped

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

March 14, 2024

Rendering is of Hydrostor’s proposed Willow Rock Energy Storage Center in Rosamond, Kern County, which recently hit a major milestone; meanwhile, the Canadian Company has officially dropped its plans for a similar project here in Chorro Valley. Photo courtesy Hydrostor

A Canadian energy storage company that sought to build one of its underground projects in Chorro Valley is celebrating a milestone with another of its projects in Kern County.

Hydrostor, a multi-national corporation based in Toronto, Can., recently filed a “Supplemental Application for Certification” for its Willow Rock Energy Storage Center project, located in Rosamond, Kern County, the company said. That 500 megawatt and $500 million facility would utilize the company’s “Advanced Compression Air Energy Storage” or A-CAES technology, which involves underground tanks that are pressurized with a compressed air and water mix. The idea is to pressurize the tanks in daytime when other renewable energy sources like solar and wind are plentiful, converting the active electrical energy into stored potential energy. 

Then at night, when solar supplies fall off, the pressure is released, turning a turbine/generator to convert it back into active electricity that is then fed back into the power grid.

It’s new technology that Hydrostor is seeking to install in other places.

The “Willow Rock Facility will be Hydrostor’s third, grid-scale A-CAES energy storage project and is part of a growing pipeline of significant Hydrostor projects around the world.”

Hydrostor has one project contracted to the Independent Electricity System Operator in Goderich, Ontario, Can.; and one in New South Wales, Australia. And, “Hydrostor has an extensive early-stage pipeline of projects in North America, Australia and Europe,” the company said.

But it appears the company’s plans for the 400 MW Pecho A-CAES project in Chorro Valley isn’t going to happen.

Last fall the company asked the California Energy Commission to drop its project slated for the end of Canet Road off Hwy 1 at the base of Hollister Peak. That so-called Pecho Energy Storage Project was met with almost united opposition from local stakeholders, from the neighbors of the site, to the County, State and local agencies. And while Hydrostor said back then it had withdrawn its application, it left the door open a smidge to potentially re-file the application, but not anymore apparently.

“Hydrostor filed a ‘Notice of Withdrawal’ with the California Energy Commission (CEC) in September 2023,” Emily Smith, Hydrostor’s Director of Media Relations told EBN, “to request the termination of the Application for Certification (AFC) proceeding for the Pecho Energy Storage Center. Consistent with Hydrostor’s request, the CEC subsequently issued an Order to terminate the Pecho AFC proceeding in October 2023.”

But that may still not be the last word, as Smith added, “Hydrostor continues to assess alternative options to develop an energy storage resource to serve the Central Coast community.”

So it appears that the 18,500 folks in Rosamond could see this new technology coming to their community and be the first in the nation to experience A-CAES.

That storage project could pair with a solar energy project, the Rosamond Solar Array Project, a 150-MW facility planned for a site in the middle of a number of existing and proposed solar and wind energy projects in and around Rosamond, Tehachapi and Antelope Valley in nearby L.A. County. 

That solar project is proposed by First Solar, Inc., which built a huge solar energy farm in California Valley.

Hydrostor has also signed an agreement with Southern California Edison to purchase the energy stored by its Rosamond plant.

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