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One Idea, Two Cool Things: Desalinated Water and Renewable Energy

The contraption, reminiscent of Rube Goldberg, would produce two of Southern California’s most precious and essential resources: water and electricity.

The electricity would be renewable. And the drought-proof, desalinated ocean water could prove more environmentally friendly — and cheaper — than the water produced from three other desalters proposed for Southern California.

The idea, developed by Silicon Valley-based Neal Aronson and his Oceanus Power & Water venture, caught the attention of the Santa Margarita Water District. The agency quickly saw the project’s viability to fill a void.

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‘Baking Skills’ Used for Repair at Lake Hodges Pumped Storage Facility

You might not think ‘baking skills’ would come in handy to fix a recent problem at the Lake Hodges Hydroelectric and Pump Station Facility. But those skills, along with initiative and ingenuity, were demonstrated by San Diego County Water Authority staff as part of the creative and complex repair.

The facility connects the City of San Diego’s Hodges Reservoir with the Water Authority’s Olivenhain Reservoir. The connection provides the ability to store up to 20,000 acre-feet of water at Hodges for emergency use.

The Lake Hodges Hydroelectric and Pump Station Facility moves water between Olivenhain and Hodges, and is able to generate up to 40 megawatts of energy on demand, helping to manage electrical demands throughout the County. It also generates revenue and helps offset energy costs.

Ground fault alarm alerts staff

A ground fault alarm on August 25, 2019 alerted staff to a potential problem with Unit 2, one of the facility’s two 20-MW pump-turbine units. A series of tests and inspections by staff with the Water Authority’s Rotating Equipment team discovered the insulation on the copper bus bars of the generator’s rotor were worn and damaged. The bus bars are part of a system that provides DC power to the 12 electromagnets which surround the outer surface of the pump turbine unit’s rotor.

The rotors are designed to spin at 600 revolutions per minute and it’s the rotor’s electromagnets acting upon the stators windings that generates power. The electromagnets are connected together by copper bus bars located on top of the rotor and the bus bars are secured to the rotor by clamping plates and rim studs. The bus bars are insulated to ensure the copper does not touch any other metal surface and cause an inadvertent ground fault.

“Although a single ground fault may not damage the pump-turbine unit, it may prevent it from starting, if two ground faults were to occur, significant damage to the pump-turbine unit would occur and would also be an extreme danger to anyone within the facility,” said Jim Fisher, Water Authority director of operations and maintenance.

Creative solutions and ingenuity save time, money

Among various factors, the primary cause of the insulation failure was determined to be improper wrapping and curing of the insulation during initial installation.

Water Authority staff developed solutions and also took on the repair tasks in September. By doing the work in-house, the Water Authority avoided a more extensive outage due to long lead times required by contractors and vendors to perform the same work, saving time and money.

“Staff did an excellent job maintaining the operation of Unit 1 while making the repairs to Unit 2,” said Fisher, “which allowed the Water Authority to avoid a total shutdown and loss of all revenue during this period.”

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Initiative and ingenuity by San Diego County Water Authority staff led to a creative repair solution at the Lake Hodges Hydroelectric and Pump Station Facility. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

‘Baking skills’ come in handy to create new bus bars

New copper bus bars were fabricated, and each had to be precisely wrapped by 5 different types of insulating tape materials. This wrapping process alone took approximately 8 hours per bus bar. The bus bars were then baked for ten hours within newly designed and fabricated aluminum molds to ensure proper pressure was applied to the insulation layers during the baking and curing process.

Staff efficiently re-purposed and utilized an oven that had been retained from the San Vicente Dam Raise Project to perform the baking. The Rotating Equipment team’s efforts produced excellent quality results which would have been difficult even for a vendor to meet. The newly insulated bus bars were re-installed, and the unit has been operating safely and without issues.

The initiative, ingenuity, and highly technical skills and knowledge of our staff were once again on display throughout the repairs,” said Fisher. “Their dedication, talents and outstanding efforts continue to ensure the Facility’s efficient and safe operation.”

Unit #2 was tested and placed back into service on November 17, 2019.

Along with the bus bar insulation and curing process repair, staff also performed many other highly technical, innovative and precise processes to complete this repair work.

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Olivenhain Municipal Water District Continues to Go Green by Expanding Use of 100 Percent Renewable Energy 

Encinitas, CA—At its January board meeting, Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors approved a two-year contract extension with 3 Phases Renewables, ensuring that OMWD is on track to use 100 percent renewable power at its water system facilities.

Sunpin Solar Launches Construction Of 98- MW Solar Project In California

US developer Sunpin Solar on Friday held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction of the 98-MW Titan Solar 1 project in California.

Commissioning is expected to take place in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The solar park will be built on 569 acres (230.3 hectares) between the Salton Sea and Anza Borrego Desert State Park in California’s Imperial County. With over 260,000 panels installed, Titan Solar 1 is set to produce more than 218,000 MWh per year, or enough power for over 26,900 homes annually, the California-based solar developer said.

Opinion: California’s Renewable Energy Targets Slashed Carbon Pollution — Now There’s a Proposal to Pause Them

California’s ambitious renewable energy targets helped drive a substantial drop in greenhouse gas pollution that propelled the state past its 2020 climate change goals early, according to a non-partisan analysis released this week. Yet one California lawmaker confirmed Tuesday he wants to put a stop to the mandate, for now.

Most of the carbon pollution that California scrubbed from its economy over the past ten years disappeared from the state’s electricity sector.

Coupling Pumped Hydro With Renewables and Other Storage Technologies

The combination of pumped hydro with other storage technologies can increase renewables penetration, improve operational safety and reduce maintenance costs at large-scale hydropower plants, according to new research. The study also focuses on techniques to determine the optimal size of renewables-based pumped hydro storage systems.

Pumped hydro is highly cost competitive as a large-scale energy storage solution, according to a recent report by the San Diego County Water Authority. The higher capital costs of pumped storage technology versus battery storage are outweighed by the longer lifetime of pumped storage, which gives it a lower levelized cost, the authority said.

Opinion: The Promise of Small Hydropower and Holistic Renewable Energy Grid

At present, solar and wind energy are highly promoted as renewable energy technologies — clean technologies in terms of their carbon footprint. However, the most prominent renewable energy source for generating electricity is hydropower. The history of hydropower for generating electricity in the U.S. goes back to late 19th century.

Is Renewable Energy’s Future Dammed?

Just outside Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, a year-round, mineral-rich spring turns the Little Colorado River a vivid turquoise. This final stretch, about 10 miles from the river’s confluence with its larger relative, is one of the West’s spectacular waterways, with bright water flowing below steep red-rock cliffs. But the view will change dramatically if a Phoenix-based company builds a proposed hydropower project.

Farmland Owners Look to Solar As Groundwater Restrictions Loom

New solar energy installations may be headed to the valley portion of Kern County as investors, government officials and advocacy groups weigh options for reusing land that will have to be taken out of production as a result of state restrictions on groundwater pumping.

Photovoltaic solar arrays, for years an attractive investment for local farmland owners, would appear to align with California’s ambitious goal of meeting all its electricity needs with renewable energy.

Renewable Energy’s Booming, But Still Falling Far Short of Climate Goals

Renewable energy capacity quadrupled worldwide over the past 10 years, with an estimated $2.6 trillion invested in its growth, a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme shows. But the speed of that growth still falls far short of what researchers say is needed to keep global warming in check.