GRDA’s Salina Pumped Storage Project: Unique Generation Resource

Jul 20, 2022

An early fall view of GRDA’s Salina Pumped Storage Project (SPSP), taken from the upper reservoir. The SPSP is located along the Saline Creek Arm of Lake Hudson. GRDA completed the first stage of the unique hydroelectric generation facility in the late 1960s.

Power for Progress… a weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority.

Located in the hills southeast of Salina, Oklahoma, on the Saline Creek arm of Lake Hudson, the Salina Pumped Storage Project (SPSP) is a unique facility that plays a vital role in the Grand River Dam Authority’s overall electricity production.

Built in the late 1960s, the facility — known to many locals as “the Pumpback” — has the capability to produce 260 megawatts of electricity with its six pump-turbine units. However, it is those words – “pump turbine” that make the facility so different.

The SPSP is like all other hydroelectric facilities in the sense that it does harness the power of falling water to spin turbine-generators. Water flows down through large pipes, called penstocks, and passes across turbine blades, which rotate a shaft, attached to a generator rotor. The rotor spins inside a magnetic field, creating electricity. That’s common among practically all hydroelectric facilities.

However, pumped storage facilities like GRDA’s have another function. Those same turbines that create electricity can also be reversed; acting as pumps to move water back through the units, back up the penstocks and back into storage in W.R. Holway Reservoir for later use.

While such pumped storage projects were already popular in Europe, there were only a few in existence in the United States when GRDA built its facility in the late 1960s. With no other sites along the Grand River available to construct a traditional hydroelectric facility, it was the only viable option. While many critics called it “experimental” during its construction, the facility has been an important part of GRDA’s overall generation portfolio ever since, as another way to put the power of water to work for Oklahoma.

GRDA is Oklahoma’s largest public power electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees, and efficiency.