Swan Lake Energy Storage signs project labor agreement


An artist’s rendering shows how the project would work: Water that’s pumped to an upper basin when solar and wind are generating more power than is needed would be released to power a turbine when solar and wind are generating less.

Rye Development has come to terms on a project labor agreement (PLA) with the Southern Oregon Building and Construction Trades Council covering the  proposed $800 million Swan Lake Energy Storage Project 11 miles northeast of Klamath Falls, Oregon.

A memorandum of understanding signed Feb. 6 stipulates that the project will be built under a PLA, and that contractors and subcontractors will recognize the Southern Oregon Building and Construction Trades Council as the sole and exclusive bargaining representative of the employees who perform the work.

In exchange, the Building and Trades Council and its member unions agree to prioritize and support the Swan Lake project as an opportunity to provide jobs to union members.

The project is expected to  create an estimated 1,440 full-year equivalent construction jobs and almost 2,000 induced jobs in supporting industries during its four-year construction period.

“This represents a tremendous number of well-paying local construction jobs in southern Oregon, as well as valuable apprenticeship opportunities for the next generation of skilled tradespeople,” said Drew Waits, secretary-treasurer of the Southern Oregon Building and Construction Trades Council.

“We’re extremely pleased to have this commitment from Rye Development,” said Robert Camarillo, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building Trades Council. “Oregon needs more clean energy infrastructure, and our highly skilled members are ready, willing and able to build the Swan Lake Energy Storage project.”

The plan is to build a new reservoir system to store electricity from the grid. When electricity is plentiful and inexpensive, pumps will push water to a 60-acre reservoir high on a hill. Then when demand rises, the facility will release that water over turbines to a lower reservoir. As with a hydroelectric dam, the spinning turbines generate electricity that can then be fed back to supplement the grid.

The $800 million project has a 393-megawatt capacity — enough to meet instantaneous demand of up to 390,000 homes.

Oregon has set ambitious goals to decarbonize the state’s electricity supply. Successfully meeting those goals hinges on the ability to replace retiring coal plants with facilities that can produce energy when needed to ensure reliable electricity service even during extremely hot or cold weather conditions. Recent studies have found that the Pacific Northwest could face significant capacity resource shortages of 7,000 megawatts by 2025, and as much as 10,000 megawatts by 2030, and that currently planned resource additions are insufficient to fill the gap.

“Swan Lake can be online by 2025 and help ensure Oregon and other states can achieve their aggressive climate targets,” said Erik Steimle, Rye Development’s vice president of project development.

In 2019, the Oregon Legislature passed a joint resolution in support of environmentally appropriate pumped storage and calling for Oregon utilities to consider integrating it into their systems. Portland General Electric has identified pumped storage as one of the key technologies it will pursue to meet its increasing capacity needs.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a 50-year construction and operational license for the project last April.


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