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PG&E Celebrates 30 Years of Operations at Helms Hydroelectric Plant Delivers Safe, Clean, Affordable Energy to 900,000 Homes

Release Date: July 31, 2014
Contact: PG&E External Communications (415) 973-5930

Fresno, Calif.— Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) marks 30 years of commercial operation at Helms Pumped Storage Project (PSP) this month. The hydroelectric facility was considered an engineering marvel when it was built and came on line in 1984, and continues to play a vital role today as well in California’s clean energy future.

Helms operators can take the plant from an idle state to full generation in eight minutes. That ability to quickly ramp up and down plays a key role in integrating intermittent renewable resources such as wind and solar onto the power grid, said John Conway, PG&E Senior Vice President for Energy Supply.

"Helms and our Diablo Canyon Power Plant give us the unique capability to fully integrate a significant amount of clean energy into the power supply while still ensuring that we can meet the energy demands of our customers," Conway said. "When it began delivering power 30 years ago, Helms played a key role for California and our customers. That role has only grown as our electric grid has evolved."

Nestled high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains about 50 miles east of Fresno, Helms features two reservoirs and three hydro pump-generators. The generators can produce a total of 1,212 megawatts of electricity or enough to power the cities of Fresno and Oakland. Nearly four miles of 28-foot diameter tunnels connect the powerhouse and two reservoirs.

During times of high electric demand, water flows downhill from Courtwright Lake at the higher elevation (8,200 feet) through the powerhouse. When there is excess generation online, the pumps can be reversed, pushing the water uphill from Lake Wishon at the lower elevation (6,500 feet) to recharge the upper reservoir.

With nearly 4,000 megawatts of generation, PG&E has the largest privately owned hydroelectric system in the nation, stretching from the Southern Cascade Mountain Range south along the Sierra-Nevada Mountains to Bakersfield. PG&E’s hydroelectric system produces enough energy to power almost 4 million average homes.

About PG&E

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/ and http://www.pge.com/about/newsroom/.

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