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Energy Shift Creates Opening for ‘World’s Largest Batteries’

Sprawled like a gigantic swimming pool atop a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan is an asphalt-and-clay pond holding enough water to produce electricity for 1.6 million households.

It’s part of the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant, which uses simple technology: Water is piped from a lower reservoir — the lake, in this case — to an upper one, then released downhill through supersized turbines.

Supporters call these systems “the world’s largest batteries” because they hold vast amounts of potential energy for use when needed for the power grid.

The hydropower industry considers pumped storage the best answer to a question hovering over the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy to address climate change: where to get power when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

(Editor’s Note: The San Diego County Water Authority and the City of San Diego are partnering on the proposed San Vicente Energy Storage Facility project. More information: www.sdcwa.org/projects/san-vicente-pumping-facilities/)

 

Pumped Storage Is Having a Moment. Will It Shift Renewables?

A massive clean energy project that doesn’t rely on wind or solar could help solve some of California’s electricity challenges — if it can get built.

Nine years after first proposing the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility, the city of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority announced in January that they were in talks with a private developer to advance the hydroelectric pumped storage project, which would be constructed northeast of the city.

The development is an example of what the hydropower industry hopes will be a tipping point for one of the oldest sources of renewable energy, even as some analysts and environmentalists remain skeptical of whether the challenges for water power can be overcome.

$1.5B Pumped Hydro Facility at San Vicente Reservoir Takes Next Steps, But Not Everyone is On Board

The construction of a proposed pumped hydro energy storage facility at the San Vicente Reservoir near Lakeside recently took a couple of steps forward but the project still needs to clear regulatory hurdles to become reality — and a backcountry conservation group has already come out in opposition to the project.

The city of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority have partnered on the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility Project, which looks to provide 500 megawatts and an estimated 4,000 megawatt-hours of long-duration stored energy to California’s electric grid. That’s enough to power about 135,000 households.

San Vicente Potential Energy Storage Facility Project Moves Ahead

As partners, the City of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority will begin negotiations on a project development agreement with the BHE Kiewit Team to develop Phase 1 of the potential San Vicente Energy Storage Facility Project, which could generate enough energy for about 135,000 households.

The proposed project is subject to a full environmental review and regulatory approvals.

San Vicente Energy Storage Facility-storage facility-renewable energy

San Vicente Potential Energy Storage Facility Project Moves Ahead

As partners, the City of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority will begin negotiations on a project development agreement with the BHE Kiewit Team to develop Phase 1 of the potential San Vicente Energy Storage Facility Project, which could generate enough energy for about 135,000 households.

The proposed project is subject to a full environmental review and regulatory approvals. If the Water Authority and City of San Diego decide to proceed after completing environmental review, the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility would provide up to 500 megawatts of long-duration stored energy upon completion to help meet peak electrical demands throughout Southern California and help meet California’s renewable energy goals.

“Reliable, clean source of energy”

“On top of providing a reliable, clean source of energy and helping our City and the state of California meet our climate goals, this project has the potential to create well-paying local jobs,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “I’m proud of the City’s partnership on this project and look forward to it moving though the regulatory approval process to fruition.”

The Water Authority’s Board of Directors on January 27, approved entering into negotiations with BHE Kiewit, along with a $4.6 million contract with AECOM Technical Services, Inc. to perform environmental work for the project.

The Board also approved a $1.6 million amendment to a professional services contract with Black & Veatch Corp. to support project development agreement negotiations, provide technical expertise for a California Independent System Operator interconnection application, perform preliminary design and engineering reviews, and assist with preparing a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license application.

Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher said the Board’s action will help propel the potential project forward by getting started on environmental review and other necessary requirements.  “The San Vicente Energy Storage Facility Project meets multiple goals for the San Diego region, including protection from blackouts and supporting climate-friendly energy sources,” said Croucher. “We’re excited to get moving.”

Phase 1

Phase 1 work includes activities required to complete site investigations, design, and engineering; support state and federal environmental reviews; support the acquisition of a CAISO interconnection agreement; support the acquisition of a FERC license; and collaborate with project partners to achieve commercialization.

Four proposals were received and evaluated for the project development contract. Teams submitted written proposals followed by interviews in December. Evaluators considered each team’s understanding of the scope of work, technical and specialized qualifications, strategies to commercialize the project, and financial capabilities.

Pumped energy storage facility project

The panel unanimously recommended starting negotiations with the BHE Kiewit Team, which includes BHE Renewables, LLC, and Kiewit Development Company. BHE Renewables, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy Company. The Water Authority Board today also approved negotiating with Rye Development, LLC, if negotiations with the BHE Kiewit Team are not successful.

California sources nearly one-third of its power from renewables, mainly solar and wind. The target for renewable energy in California is 60% by 2030. Such a major shift to renewables will require new kinds of investments, markets and business practices. Electric grids need to be more flexible; new kinds of power supplies will help deliver energy flexibility when needed; and new pricing systems are needed to send clear signals to developers and financial markets that these projects need to move forward.

Pumped energy storage projects, such as the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility, are designed to store excess renewable energy from solar and wind during the day, and then discharge that energy when energy use increases in the evening and renewable energy is not as plentiful.

Energy Storage Process-San Vicente Energy Storage Facility-Renewable Energy

The San Diego County Water Authority and the City of San Diego are partners in developing the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility. The pumped storage energy project at San Vicente Reservoir could store 4,000 megawatt-hours per day of energy, or 500 megawatts of capacity for eight hours. Graphic: San Diego County Water Authority

The San Vicente project would create a small upper reservoir above the existing, City-owned San Vicente Reservoir, along with a tunnel system and an underground powerhouse to connect the two reservoirs. As planned, the powerhouse would contain four reversible pump turbines.

During off-peak periods – when power is inexpensive and renewable supplies from wind and solar facilities exceed demand – turbines would pump water to the upper reservoir where it would act as a battery of stored potential energy. During high energy use, the system would discharge water from the upper reservoir downhill through the turbines, producing energy. The exchange between the two reservoirs would not consume water.

San Vicente Reservoir is near major electricity transmission interconnection facilities, which would allow the project to play a central role in integrating solar and wind energy from across the Southwest for use in San Diego County.

The San Vicente project is largely immune to the challenges faced by some conventional hydropower facilities because it would rely on an existing reservoir that holds primarily imported water and does not fluctuate significantly from year to year.

For more details about the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility go to: www.sdcwa.org/projects/san-vicente-pumping-facilities/.

(Editor’s Note: The City of San Diego is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

California Regional Meeting to Feature Panels on How to Meet Climate Goals

In 2016, California set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. This is the most aggressive emissions reduction target in the United States. California Governor Gavin Newsom is directing California state agencies to accelerate the state’s progress toward its climate goals and is evaluating pathways for the state to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035.

Meeting these goals means a major shift in how electric power is generated and a greater reliance upon renewable sources, which, in turn, will lead to new kinds of investments, markets, and business practices.

One of the most promising pumped storage hydro solutions in California is the proposed 500-MW San Vicente Energy Storage Facility under consideration by a partnership of the San Diego County Water Authority and the City of San Diego.

San Vicente Energy Storage Facility project-renewable energy-grid-pumped hydro

Request for Proposals Issued to Develop San Vicente Energy Storage Facility

San Diego County Water Authority this week issued a formal Request for Proposals seeking a full-service private partner capable of developing a large-scale pumped energy storage project planned jointly by the Water Authority and the City of San Diego. Proposals are due by 2 p.m. Nov. 3, and details such as how to file are included in the RFP document at www.sdcwa.org/contracting-opportunities.

Request for Proposals

The partner agencies aim to maximize the value of the existing San Vicente Reservoir for on-demand energy generation to support the state’s clean energy goals. The Water Authority and the City of San Diego are seeking a full-service, multidisciplinary team capable of delivering and operating the project.  The scope of work is divided into two phases: Phase 1 Preliminary Work and Phase 2 Implementation Work. The RFP details the scope of work required for development and deployment of the project, including a financial plan.

“This is an exciting project that meets multiple goals for the San Diego region, including protection from blackouts and supporting climate-friendly energy sources,” said Gary Bousquet, director of engineering for the Water Authority. “We are committed to finding a private partner who can help move this from concept to completion.”

State funds for San Vicente Energy Storage Facility

In July 2021, the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility received $18 million in the state budget, enough to advance it through initial design, environmental reviews, and the federal licensing process. The San Vicente project is one of the most promising pumped energy storage solutions in California and it would be a major asset to help avoid rolling blackouts through on-demand energy production while helping to meet state climate goals. It also could mitigate costs for water ratepayers across the San Diego region by generating additional revenue to help offset the cost of water purchases, storage, and treatment. The City and the Water Authority are developing the project together, just like they did to raise the height of the city-owned San Vicente Dam 117 feet in the 2010s.

“The San Vicente Energy Storage Facility is an important project for San Diego,” said Juan Guerreiro, executive assistant director of the City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department. “It will improve our energy security, with a clean renewable power solution to help us efficiently manage the energy supply within our region.”

With state funding in place, the Water Authority and the City are preparing to launch federal and state environmental reviews and seek a project license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Those complex components are expected to take at least four years, with construction completion forecast for 2030. The critical infrastructure project will create more than 1,000 construction-related jobs in addition to its other benefits.

Renewable energy for Southern California

Upon completion, the San Vicente energy project would provide up to 500 megawatts of long-duration stored energy, which will assist in meeting peak electrical demand periods throughout Southern California and help meet the goals of Senate Bill 100, which requires 60% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% zero-carbon energy resources statewide by 2045. The project will provide enough energy for about 135,000 households when operating.

California’s continuing shift to renewables will require new kinds of investments, markets, and business practices. Electric grids need to be more flexible; new kinds of power supplies will help deliver energy flexibility when needed; and new pricing systems are needed to send clear signals to developers and financial markets that these projects need to move forward.

Pumped energy storage projects are a major piece of the solution. They are designed to store excess renewable energy from solar and wind during the day, and then discharge that energy when energy use increases in the evening and renewable energy is not available.

The San Vicente project would create a small upper reservoir above the existing San Vicente Reservoir in Lakeside, along with a tunnel system and an underground powerhouse to connect the two reservoirs. The powerhouse would contain four reversible pump turbines.

 

 

San Vicente Energy Storage Facility Project-Renewable Energy-Graphic

During off-peak periods – when power is inexpensive and renewable supplies from wind and solar facilities exceed demand – turbines would pump water to the upper reservoir where it would act as a battery of stored potential energy. During high energy use, the system would discharge water from the upper reservoir downhill through the turbines, producing energy. The exchange between the two reservoirs would not consume water.

San Vicente Reservoir is near major electricity transmission interconnection facilities, which would allow the project to play a central role in integrating solar and wind energy from across the Southwest for use in San Diego County. The San Vicente project is largely immune to the challenges faced by some conventional hydropower facilities because it is a closed-loop system that mainly holds imported water and is not reliant on runoff that can fluctuate significantly from year to year and hamper power production.

(Editor’s note: The City of San Diego is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Pre-RFP: San Vicente Energy Storage RFP to be Advertised Next Month

The San Vicente Energy Storage Facility RFP will be advertised starting next month, according to the San Diego County Water Authority. This will allow bidders time to prepare proposals for submission in November.

The joint RFP is being issued by the San Diego County Water Authority, and the City of San Diego, California, and is seeking a private sector partner for the 500 MW pumped energy storage project.

According to Gary Bousquet, the director of engineering at San Diego County Water Authority, the project is a proposed closed-loop pumped storage facility and is “essential to California achieving its renewable and clean energy goals established by Senate Bill 100.”

Recognizing the need for large-scale storage, Bousquet explained, the California FY22/23 budget includes USD 18 million “to advance the development of this facility.”

Gary Bousquet-Director of Engineering-Water Authority

Gary Bousquet Named Director of Engineering for Water Authority

Gary Bousquet, a 30-year civil engineering professional, has been appointed Director of Engineering for the San Diego County Water Authority as the agency launches the development of a major energy storage project that promises substantial long-term benefits for the region. Bousquet fills the position vacated by the retirement of Jerry Reed, whose 26-year career with the Water Authority included the past six years as Engineering Department director.

With Bousquet’s promotion, Engineering Manager Neena Kuzmich was promoted to Deputy Director of Engineering. Kuzmich is a professional civil engineer with more than 20 years of experience, including the past eight years leading complex engineering projects at the Water Authority.

The Water Authority is a regional wholesale water agency that provides about 80% of the water used in San Diego County, sustaining a $253 billion economy and quality of life for 3.3 million residents.

Gary Bousquet managed major Capital Improvement Program projects

Bousquet joined the Water Authority in 1999 after working in the private sector designing and performing construction management of water and wastewater treatment projects. During the past 22 years at the Water Authority, Bousquet managed design and construction of Capital Improvement Program projects including the San Vicente Tunnel, San Vicente Pump Station, and the Lake Hodges Hydroelectric Facility. For the past several years, he served as Deputy Director of Engineering, leading the agency’s CIP Design and Energy Projects Group, Engineering Administration Services Group, and the Water Authority’s Innovation Program. Bousquet graduated with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Northeastern University and is a registered civil engineer in California.

“Jerry Reed’s hard work and dedicated service has made a profound impact on the San Diego region, which benefits every day from the projects that he helped develop and lead over the past three decades,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. “Thankfully, the Engineering Department will remain in good hands. Gary Bousquet’s dedication to innovation and excellence will continue to enhance the San Diego region’s natural resources for decades to come.”

The Water Authority’s engineering department is responsible for the design and construction of regional water facilities in the Capital Improvement and Asset Management Programs; overseeing energy related projects; managing real-estate interests; patrolling and managing 168 miles of right-of-way property; and providing survey services.

Neena Kuzmich-Gary Bousquet-Engineering-San Diego County Water Authority-Director of Engineering

Gary Bousquet has been appointed Director of Engineering for the San Diego County Water Authority and, with Bousquet’s promotion, Engineering Manager Neena Kuzmich was promoted to Deputy Director of Engineering for the Water Authority. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Renewable energy project: San Vicente Energy Storage Facility

For the past several years, Bousquet and Kuzmich have led the Water Authority’s efforts to develop a major renewable energy project proposed jointly with the City of San Diego. The San Vicente Energy Storage Facility received $18 million in the state budget signed in July by Gov. Gavin Newsom, enough to advance the project through initial design, environmental reviews, and the federal licensing process.

Energy Storage Process-San Vicente-Pumped Hydro-Energy

The San Diego County Water Authority and the City of San Diego are partners in developing the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility. The pumped storage energy project at San Vicente Reservoir could store 4,000 megawatt-hours per day of energy, or 500 megawatts of capacity for eight hours.

The San Vicente energy project is one of the most promising pumped energy storage solutions in California and it would be a major asset to help avoid rolling blackouts through on-demand energy production while helping to meet state climate goals. It also could mitigate costs for water ratepayers across the San Diego region by generating additional revenue to help offset the cost of water purchases, storage, and treatment. The City and the Water Authority are developing the project together, just like they did to raise the height of the city-owned San Vicente Dam 117 feet in the 2010s. More information on the project: www.sdcwa.org/projects/san-vicente-pumping-facilities/.

The department and agency have won several awards in recent years, including the world’s top civil engineering honor for its Emergency and Carryover Storage Project in 2017 from the American Society of Civil Engineers. More recently, the agency received four awards from the American Public Works Association and American Society of Civil Engineers for construction projects that exemplified outstanding skill, dedication, and collaboration. The awards include:

  • APWA Project of the Year: Northern First Aqueduct Structures and Lining Rehabilitation
  • APWA Honor Award: Vallecitos 11/Vista Irrigation 12 Flow Control Facility
  • APWA Honor Award: San Diego 28 Flow Control Facility
  • ASCE Award of Excellence: Pipeline 5 Emergency Repair

Funds for Pumped Storage Hydro Expected to Help Propel California’s Clean Energy Future

Employees working at the San Diego County Water Authority and the City of San Diego likely won’t be taking much of an August vacation. Instead, many of them will be gearing up for preliminary studies, environmental reviews, and licensing activities for the proposed San Vicente Energy Storage Facility.

That’s because the facility – being proposed in partnership by the city and the Water Authority – received a shot in the arm in July 2021, when California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the state budget into law. Specifically, the budget includes $18 million in funding – enough to advance the project through initial design, environmental reviews, and the federal licensing process.

The proposed 500-MW project would be located outside of San Diego. It is designed to be closed loop or “off-river,” which means the facility will have few environmental impacts to the local area.