Helms Pumped Storage Plant

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Helms Pumped Storage Plant
Courtright Reservoir 2.jpg
Courtright, the upper reservoir
CountryUnited States
LocationFresno County
Coordinates37°02′13″N 118°57′53″W / 37.03694°N 118.96472°W / 37.03694; -118.96472Coordinates: 37°02′13″N 118°57′53″W / 37.03694°N 118.96472°W / 37.03694; -118.96472
Construction began1977
Commission date1984
Owner(s)Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Power generation
Nameplate capacity1,212 MW

The Helms Pumped Storage Plant is located 50 mi (80 km) east of Fresno, California in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range's Sierra National Forest. It is a power station that uses Helms Creek canyon on the North Fork of the Kings River for off-river water storage[1] and the pumped-storage hydroelectric method to generate electricity. After being planned in the early 1970s, construction on the plant began in June 1977 and commercial operations began on 30 June 1984. It has an installed capacity of 1,212 MW and is owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company.[2]

Design and operation[edit]

The power plant operates by moving water between two reservoirs, an upper and a lower. When energy demand is high, water is released from the upper reservoir to the plant where electricity is generated before the water is discharged into the lower reservoir. When demand is low (such as at night), water is pumped back up to the upper reservoir to be used as stored energy at a later time. This is accomplished by pump-generators which serve a dual role: both pumps which can reverse, for use as generators. The plant can go from a stand still to operational in eight minutes which allows it to meet peak energy demand. It consumes more electricity pumping versus generating electricity but pumping occurs during periods of low demand, making the plant economical.[2][3][4]

The upper reservoir is known as Courtright Reservoir and it has a storage capacity of 123,000 acre⋅ft (151,718,266 m3) while sitting at an altitude of 8,184 ft (2,494 m). Wishon Reservoir serves as the lower reservoir and has a storage capacity of 129,000 acre⋅ft (159,119,157 m3). It is at an altitude of 6,550 ft (1,996 m). Connecting the reservoirs, in order from upper to lower, is first a 10,511 ft (3,204 m) long head-race tunnel which turns into a 2,248 ft (685 m) long steel penstock which drops in elevation and trifurcates into three individual penstocks which feed a separate pump-generator. After the water is used to generate electricity, it is discharged into the lower reservoir via a 3,797 ft (1,157 m) long tail-race tunnel. The difference in elevation between the reservoirs affords an effective hydraulic head (drop of the water) of 1,625 ft (495 m). The power plant is located underground near Wishon Reservoir and houses three 404 MW Francis pump turbine-generators.[3][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Dam Truth About Reservoirs "There are 2 broad categories of reservoirs, the valley reservoir [or on-river storage,] and the off-river storage reservoir"
  2. ^ a b "By the Numbers: Helms Pumped Storage Facility". Pacific Gas and Electric Company. 17 October 2011. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  3. ^ a b Kermit Jr., Paul (March 1989). "Design Features of The Helms Pumped Storage Project" (PDF). IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. 4 (1). Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  4. ^ a b Yeung, Manho (17 October 2008). "Helms Pumped Storage Plant" (PDF). Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Retrieved 15 January 2012.

External links[edit]