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To Avoid Blackouts, California May Tap Fossil Fuel Plants

Looking to avoid power blackouts, California may turn to the one energy source it’s otherwise desperate to get rid of: fossil fuels.

A sweeping energy proposal Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Thursday puts the state in the business of buying power to ensure there’s enough to go around during heat waves that strain the grid. But some critics say the method of getting there is at odds with the state’s broader climate goals, because it paves the way for the state to tap aging gas-fired power plants and add backup generators fueled by diesel.

Joe Biden Wants 100% Clean Energy. Will California Show that it’s Possible?

The undersea power line would run south from San Luis Obispo County, hugging the California coast for 200 miles before making landfall in or near Los Angeles. It would be able to carry electricity from a fleet of offshore wind turbines, providing Southern California with clean power after sundown and helping to replace fossil-fueled generators.

Fewer planet-warming emissions, less risk of blackouts and no chance of igniting the wildfires sometimes sparked by traditional power lines: Those are the arguments for the $1.9-billion Pacific Transmission Expansion.

Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, AES Pursue Nation’s First Solar-Powered Pumped Hydro Project

Kauai Island Utility Cooperative and AES Corp. have executed and filed a power purchase agreement with Hawaii regulators to develop a solar-powered pumped hydro storage project the utility says will bring its total resource mix above 80% renewables. The West Kauai Energy Project could come online in 2024.

Sunlight Powers Portable, Inexpensive Systems to Produce Drinking Water

In an increasingly hot and crowded world, clean water is becoming a precious commodity. Two thirds of the global population will have problems accessing fresh water by 2025, and removing salt and contaminants from the oceans and groundwater is one way to slake humanity’s thirst. Today’s large desalination plants, though, cost millions of dollars to build. Most use reverse osmosis, which forces seawater through salt-blocking membranes.

Water Harvesting Tech for PV Panel Cleaning and Cooling

An international research team has proposed to use nighttime radiative cooling to harvest water from PV panels and reuse it for module cleaning during the daytime. According to their findings, the proposed system has, also, a beneficial effect on the modules’ operating temperature.

Farmland Consolidations Could Save Water, Promote Solar

Hopes are rising in the southern Central Valley that the farmland expected to be fallowed in coming years because of drought and groundwater restrictions won’t sit idle but will instead be consolidated to make room for new land uses including solar power generation. Efforts are underway locally to create a system for piecing together parcels that would allow investment at a scale large enough to support substantial photovoltaic solar arrays — or ranching or creation of natural habitat, whatever makes sense financially for landowners.

Solar Project Saves Energy, Costs for Vallecitos Water District

The Vallecitos Water District is pursuing greater use of renewable resources, increasing capacity to the electrical grid, and reducing long term operational costs with an innovative solar power project.

The Vallecitos Water District Twin Oaks Reservoir dual solar panel array is expected to be completed in November 2020. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Solar Project

Solar Project Saves Energy, Costs for Vallecitos Water District

The Vallecitos Water District is pursuing greater use of renewable resources, increasing capacity to the electrical grid, and reducing long term operational costs with an innovative solar power project.

The west solar array is installed on top of the Vallecitos Water District’s 33-million gallon reservoir with 2,300 solar modules and eight 80 kw inverters. The east array is located on top of the 40-million gallon reservoir with 2,900 modules with ten 80 kw inverters. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

In 2017, the Vallecitos Water District Board of Directors agreed to pursue development of districtwide renewable power sources using existing open space to benefit the District and its ratepayers.  The District worked with solar consultants Terra Verde Renewable Partners to evaluate and study the feasibility of three solar port locations. Two projects are now moving forward; two arrays at the pair of Vallecitos owned reservoirs in Twin Oaks, and an array at the (sewer) Lift Station #1, located on San Marcos Boulevard.

The projects are structured under a Power Purchase Agreement. A solar provider designs, builds, and maintains systems for 25 years. In turn, the District receives a reduced electricity rate from SDG&E over the 25-year term at the District’s 13 highest use meters. The District will become owners of the solar system after the 25-year maintenance term expires. No capital investment is required from the District.

“The project is a great benefit to Vallecitos customers,” said Ryan Morgan, Capital Facilities Senior Engineer. “Through our export of power into the electrical grid, we receive bill credits on these power exchanges. The District benefits directly through reduced power costs, and that cost savings is passed down to the customer ultimately in reduced water and sewer rates.”

Multiple stakeholders working together

Vallecitos Water District provides the project sites, working with SDG&E, the solar provider team, the District’s contractors, and the solar maintenance operator. The District’s water professionals work with solar power experts to guide the project through planning, design, and construction as a team.

Over the 25-year term, the District will benefit from a reduced electrical rate of 7.79 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) at its 13 highest use meters. It will also receive a rebate or credit on its export of power to the electrical grid. Savings to the District over 25 years are estimated at $8.3 million, which ultimately results in reduced water and sewer rates for customers. District staff locked in the maximum federal rebate by launching the project in 2019 and meeting a narrow window for grant funding.

Solar panels installed on top of two reservoirs

The Twin Oaks Reservoir dual solar panel array sites prior to installation. Photo: Vallecitos Water District solar project

The Twin Oaks Reservoir dual solar panel array sites prior to installation. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The west solar array is installed on top of the District’s 33-million gallon reservoir with 2,300 solar modules and eight 80 kW inverters. The east array is located on top of the 40-million gallon reservoir with 2,900 modules with ten 80 kW inverters. The total production is roughly 3.6 MWh annually, enough to power 340 homes.

Local power conservation remains vital

The Twin Oaks Reservoir dual solar array total production is roughly 3.6 mWh annually, enough to power 340 homes. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Twin Oaks Reservoir dual solar array total production is roughly 3.6 mWh annually, enough to power 340 homes. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

While the solar power project cannot prevent the potential for power outages due to rolling blackouts, the project helps to add capacity to the power grid when it is needed.

“The District wants to publicly thank Terre Verde Renewable Partners, Holt Renewables, and Kenyon Energy for their valuable roles in the success of this project,” said Morgan.  “We also want to acknowledge the above and beyond effort of the District’s inspections team.”

The Twin Oaks Reservoir dual array is expected to be completed in November 2020. The Lift Station #1 site is expected to be completed in February of 2021.

Opinion: California Needs to Accelerate Efforts to Achieve Clean Energy Goals

As our state has suffered through a summer of record-breaking heat waves, blackouts and wildfires, Gov. Gavin Newsom has rightly pegged what’s principally behind these challenges: “If you are in denial about climate change,” he said recently, “come to California.”

SA Water’s Solar Splash Undaunted by Covid-19, Proposes More Solar

After South Australia’s largest water and sewerage service supplier announced in January that it was planning to invest more than $300 million in solar and energy storage in 2020, perhaps SA Water could’ve checked its ambitions when the Covid-19 pandemic reared its elongated neck. However, SA Water is proving that it can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.