Prior to the 2016 election I wrote an article regarding the proposed Big Chino Valley Pumped Storage plant. The estimated initial drawdown from the Big Chino aquifer to fill the plant’s two storage reservoirs is nearly 9 billion gallons—1.5 times the estimated annual base flow of the Verde River and nearly twice the estimated annual recharge rate for the entire aquifer.
After the initial fill, Big Chino’s storage reservoirs would need regular replenishment due to evaporation. The evaporation rate would be greatest during periods of drought. Consequently, the most extensive pumping from the aquifer would occur when the aquifer is most in need of replenishment.
Is it remotely possible this extraction would not affect base flow of the upper Verde River?
Profitability of Big Chino Valley Pumped Storage relied on Democrat-supported federal subsidies for both plant and transmission lines. When hope for subsidies died after Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss, Farallon Capital Management LLC divested their entire 3.88 million shares of Big Chino’s Michigan-based parent company.
Farallon Capital is a hedge fund management company founded by Tom Steyer.
In February 2018 it was reported Big Chino had again found financial backers. I don’t know who, but I can speculate why.
Tom Steyer-financed Proposition 127 would have required Arizona electricity providers (in our case APS) to buy electricity from inefficient back-up sources during periods when intermittent wind and solar sources are not producing. Big Chino Pumped Storage is the only storage source waiting to be built. Its output could be sold at a price that justifies the project’s cost if electricity providers were forced to buy it. This could be the reason upcoming Gen IV nuclear reactors—the only non-fossil-fueled source that could support electrified transportation—were excluded from the energy mix.
Fortunately, 69% of Arizona voters who don’t want their state to become another California said “no.”
Unfortunately, Big Chino Pumped Storage is not giving up. It was formed to benefit investors for whom the future of the upper Verde watershed is not likely a major concern. And if Democrats take control of government in 2020, we may see fresh subsidies and mandates that make the project profitable.
And that is worthy of concern.