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California’s Clean Energy Conundrum

San Diego – While California draws nearly one third of its power from renewables, solar and wind energy systems are periodically pulled offline because there’s not enough demand when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. These so-called “curtailments” increased significantly between 2014 (when they were almost non-existent) and today. They could soon become a major barrier to a more sustainable future as more and more renewable energy sources are developed to meet peak demands.

Thankfully, California water agencies are well-positioned to play a pivotal role with a solution that makes the state’s electrical grid more flexible, stable and efficient. Strategic deployment of large-scale, long-duration pumped storage facilities could minimize curtailments and provide many other benefits. That would help California achieve its aggressive targets to supply at least 60 percent of the state’s energy from renewables by 2030 and 100 percent from clean energy sources by 2045.

Neighbors Upset With Water Main Breaks in North Park

People in North Park say they’re fed up with rushing water and flood damage from recent water main breaks. There have been at least four major water main breaks, since 2017, in the same area.

San Diegans attending the Pure Water Day Open House could sample the purified water produced at the North City Water Reclamation Plant's demonstration facility. Photo: City of San Diego

Pure Water Day Delivers Pure Family Fun

The City of San Diego held its third ‘Pure Water Day’ Open House at the North City Water Reclamation Plant in the Miramar area, inviting residents to enjoy family-friendly activities and learn about the upcoming project construction.

More than 300 community members took tours of the five-step water purification process at the Demonstration Facilities. Photo: City of San Diego

More than 300 people took tours of the five-step water purification process at the demonstration facilities. Photo: City of San Diego

More than 300 people took tours of the five-step water purification process at the Pure Water Demonstration Facility and tasted the purified water produced at the facility following their tour. Residents of University City, Clairemont, and Scripps Ranch learned about Phase 1 of construction scheduled in their neighborhoods.

“We are excited to once again open our doors to the community, and share how we will deliver a new, safe, local source of drinking water for San Diego,” said John Helminski, assistant director of the San Diego Public Utilities Department.

Attendees enjoyed a variety of family-friendly activities at the third annual Pure Water Day. Photo: City of San Diego

Attendees enjoyed a variety of family-friendly activities at the third annual Pure Water Day. Photo: City of San Diego

Pure Water first phase starts construction later this year

Pure Water San Diego is a multi-year phased program using proven technology to clean recycled water to produce safe, high-quality potable water. After construction is completed, the Pure Water Program is expected to provide one-third of the City of San Diego’s water supply by 2035.

The first phase of construction includes the North City Pure Water Facility, new pump stations and pipelines, and upgrades to existing facilities. The North City Pure Water Facility will be constructed on City of San Diego owned property east of Interstate 805 and north of Eastgate Mall, across from the existing North City Water Reclamation Plant.

Purified water produced at the completed plant will be delivered to the Miramar Reservoir, blended with the City of San Diego’s imported and local water sources, and treated again at the existing Miramar Drinking Water Treatment Plant. After this process, the water will be distributed to customers. Construction of Phase 1 is expected to begin later this year and is scheduled for completion in 2023.

Pumped Hydro 2 - SanV-WaterAuthority-May 2019

Water Authority Supports Bill to Spur Pumped Storage Projects

A bill that the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors voted to support in March is scheduled for a hearing Thursday in the state Senate Appropriations Committee. The proposed state legislation promotes the development of pumped hydroelectric storage projects to help meet state energy and climate goals.

Senate Bill 772 by Sen. Steven Bradford of Gardena promotes the development of pumped hydroelectric storage projects to help meet state energy and climate goals.

The Board’s support for the legislation followed the March release of a research paper from a team led by UC San Diego Professor David G. Victor that emphasizes the benefits of expanding pumped hydro energy storage as a cost-effective way to help California meet its renewable energy goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Read the Pumped Energy Storage report here.

The Water Authority and the City of San Diego are exploring a potential pumped storage energy project at the San Vicente Reservoir that could store 4,000 megawatt-hours per day of energy, or 500 megawatts of capacity for eight hours.

Energy generated by renewable sources, like wind and solar, can be captured by energy storage facilities and then distributed then needed. Batteries and pumped energy storage will provide the needed energy storage for both short-term needs (batteries, less than 4 hours) and long-duration needs (pumped energy storage, 8 hours or more).

Large-scale, long-duration renewable energy source

A key to the San Vicente concept and others is development of statewide institutional and regulatory support for large-scale, long duration energy storage lasting up to eight hours. Pumped storage projects store solar and wind power during low-demand periods for use during high-demand periods, such as evenings when people are cooking, washing clothes and running air conditioners.

The State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission has identified bulk energy storage – including pumped hydroelectric storage – as a core strategy for integrating renewable energy resources into the California electrical grid and reducing greenhouse gases.

In addition, the white paper stresses the need for new state policies that will ensure that pumped energy storage projects enter commercial operations when they will be critically needed.

“To be consistent with California’s energy vision, active new policy support is needed to facilitate the development of pumped energy storage,” according to Victor’s paper. “Those policies should recognize the long lead times in building pumped energy storage projects (5 to 10 years). New policy efforts must begin now.

“Among the needed actions are state-backed support for some early projects that would jump start investment in this proven technology. This support can demonstrate viable business models and investment strategies that will pave the way for more private sector-led projects in the future.”

Providing ratepayer benefits

Pumped energy storage projects work like giant batteries by storing excess renewable energy during the day, when renewable power production peaks. Energy is released from the “battery” in the evening, when energy use increases, and renewable energy is not available.

Keeping the electrical grid reliable requires not only short-term energy storage, but long-duration, large-scale storage.

“Many expert studies have been performed that demonstrate the value of pumped energy storage, including CAISO’s Bulk Energy Storage Case Study, which found that a 500 megawatts (MW) pumped energy storage project in Southern California would provide ratepayers with a savings of up to $51M per year from improved efficiencies in system operation,” according to Victor’s white paper.

“Without significant new large-scale energy storage, California will likely be required to import more energy from other states, including potentially power generated with higher carbon emissions, such as coal,” the paper said. “The State will be unable to meet its renewable and climate goals reliably without large-scale energy storage.”

SB 772 is an attempt to address some of the issues identified by Victor and others. The legislation would require the California Independent System Operator, which runs the state’s power grid, to create a competitive bidding process by June 2022 to acquire a substantial quantity of long-duration energy storage – the type created by pumped hydroelectric storage.

In Case You Missed It: San Diego Weekend News Digest For Saturday, Feb. 23

To help make sure you stay informed on the most shared and talked about stories in San Diego County, each Saturday we’ll revisit five stories from the previous week and capsulize them in this digest with the most recent updates. A report released this week confirms that most of California is no longer in drought thanks to a series of winter storms that have walloped the state in February. San Diego County is part of the 33 percent of the state that remains in the abnormally dry category but it is a stark improvement from three months ago, when the entire state was in that category.

(L to R) 2019 poster contest winners Madelieine Inawen, Claire Zhang, Kate hu, Alanis Huang, and Weiyi Xu with their winning artwork. Photo: Courtesy City of San Diego

Creative Kids Educate Region About Water Conservation

Eighteen talented San Diego, Coronado and Imperial Beach elementary school students used their artistic skills to communicate the importance of water conservation in the City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department 18th annual Kids Poster Contest.

Winning entries in the contest are featured in the 2019 Water Conservation Calendar, which debuts this month. They are available free for pickup at San Diego city libraries, recreation centers, and at San Diego City Hall, 202 C Street downtown.

The theme “How Am I A Water Conservation Hero?” asked students to imagine themselves saving water from being wasted. They could draw, paint, color, cut and paste original artwork depicting one important message about water conservation. Winning students were honored at a City Council presentation in 2018, and their artwork was featured publicly at the San Diego County Fair and San Diego Watercolor Society Gallery.

“The City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department is proud to sponsor the yearly Kids Poster Contest,” said Brian Hojnacki, a supervising management analyst for city utilities. “It allows us to involve first to sixth graders through art while learning and thinking about water conservation in our region. It’s a win-win for us all.”

In addition to being recognized as community ambassadors and local conservation celebrities, winners received gift cards as prizes and publication in the new calendar. The winning posters will be displayed throughout the City of San Diego all year.

The contest winners for 2018 whose artwork was used to create the 2019 calendar are:

Grade 1     

1st Place – Ruiya Xia, Solana Ranch Elementary School

2nd Place – Isabella Chen, Solana Ranch Elementary School

3rd Place – Angela Han, Solana Ranch Elementary School

Grade 2

1st Place – Weiyi Liu, Stone Ranch Elementary School

2nd Place – Ella Zhao, Monterey Ridge Elementary School

3rd Place – Tracie Liu, Sycamore Ridge School

Grade 3

1st Place – Rachael Ma, Monterey Ridge Elementary School

2nd Place – Alanis Huang, Solana Ranch Elementary School

3rd Place – Kate Hu, Solana Ranch Elementary School

Grade 4

1st Place – Lauren Chen, Monterey Ridge Elementary School

2nd Place – Abigail Wei, Monterey Ridge Elementary School

3rd Place – Caden Phan, Hardy Elementary School

Grade 5

1st Place – Claire Zhang, Solana Pacific Elementary School

2nd Place – Angela Chen, Monterey Ridge Elementary School

3rd Place – Annika Liao, Del Sur Elementary School

Grade 6

1st Place – Madeleine Irawan, Black Mountain Middle School

2nd Place – Eric Shi, Mesa Verde Middle School

3rd Place – Vicky Xu, Solana Ranch Elementary School

Recycled Water Category Winner

1st Place – Katelyn Chen, Oak Valley Elementary

The 19th annual poster competition for the next calendar is now open to students from first through sixth grade. The theme is “Where Can I Catch The Rain, and What Can I Do With It?”

Winning posters will be featured in the 2020 Water Conservation Calendar. Winners will be honored at a San Diego City Council meeting and have their work displayed at the San Diego County Fair and in the San Diego Watercolor Society Gallery. The entry deadline is March 22, 2019. More information is here.


City of San Diego’s 19th Annual Kids Poster Content

Calling all first through sixth grade students … the City of San Diiego Public Utilities Department is looking for the next Michaelangelo.  Get your students involved for a chance to be recognized as community ambassadors and local conservation celebrities.

Flood of Distrust: A Deep Dive into San Diego’s Water Department

What started as a trickle of billing complaints surged into a flash flood of allegations raised about the city of San Diego’s Water Department. NBC 7 Responds’ investigation into billing errors led to the discovery of faulty water meters and a lack of transparency over the city’s multi-million-dollar smart meter program. Some of the team’s findings have led to the department taking corrective action. “Flood of Distrust” will give you an inside look at the investigative journey from start to finish.

Water Main Break Floods Midway Homes with Water and Mud

A water main running along a hillside between two residential streets burst Monday causing a mudslide that flooded nearly a dozen Midway District homes and displaced residents.

The 8-inch concrete main broke between Larga Circle and Oleander Drive around 2:30 p.m. The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) told NBC 7 that four homes on Oleander and six below on Larga Circle were evacuated.