Montana energy project long overdue

Something long overdue appears to be happening in Montana. There, a company has been granted a license to construct a $1 billion electric energy project that amounts to a gigantic battery.

Absaroka Energy of Bozeman, Mont., plans to build a 400-megawatt pumped storage facility. If completed, it would provide a necessary adjunct to the scores of solar and wind energy projects on which the federal government has lavished billions of dollars during the past few years.

Solar arrays do not generate power when the sun is not shining. Ditto for wind turbines when the air is calm.

Neither type of generating facility is reliable for peak load periods when utilities need certain amounts of power to meet demand.

Pumped storage facilities are dams. During low-demand periods, power from alternatives such as wind and solar facilities is used to pump water up behind the dams. When demand increases, water is released through hydroelectric generators to produce power.

Though President Barack Obama has been generous with money for wind farms and solar arrays, the same cannot be said for the pumped storage facilities needed to make them practical. Now, the private sector is stepping up to do that.

Like it or not, solar and wind power are realities. That means the government needs to pay more attention to pumped storage projects.