The state government’s decision to provide $18 million to fund preliminary work on state and federal approvals for the long-anticipated San Vicente Energy Storage Facility — advocated by the San Diego County Water Authority and the city of San Diego — makes the $1.5 billion project significantly more likely to come to pass. The great news is that the “pumped hydro” facility at the San Vicente Reservoir near Lakeside will strongly shore up available energy supplies at night after solar power is no longer directly available.
Environmentalists say desalination decimates ocean life, costs too much money and energy, and soon will be made obsolete by water recycling. But as Western states face an epic drought, regulators appear ready to approve a desalination plant in Huntington Beach, California.
After spending 22 years and $100 million navigating a thicket of state regulations and environmentalists’ challenges, Poseidon Water is down to one major regulatory hurdle – the California Coastal Commission. The company feels confident enough to talk of breaking ground by the end of next year on the $1.4 billion plant that would produce some 50 million gallons of drinking water daily.
In 1969, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished construction of the Red Rock Dam on the Des Moines River in Marion County, Iowa. One of thousands of U.S. dams built that decade, its purpose was to moderate seasonal flooding, allowing the Corps to release the million-and-a-half acre feet of snowmelt it impounded each spring at will. And for more than 50 years, aside from providing locals with a reservoir in which to fish and go boating, that’s all it did.
A southern Utah city plans to pull additional water from the Colorado River, but the move amid a historic drought has left some concerned. A 140-mile pipeline approved by the Utah Legislature would serve St. George, a fast-growing city of nearly 90,000 people — up from fewer than 75,000 a decade ago. A new “straw” into the river would increase demand on the Colorado River system, even as federal officials deal with a shrinking Lake Powell, which would be the source of the pipeline.
Marin Municipal Water District announced Friday that it has found a potential vendor for temporary desalination plants and four Central Valley water suppliers that could transfer water to the county through a pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
The emergency water projects are being explored based on forecasts that the majority of Marin residents could run out of water by July 2022 if the upcoming winter is as dry as last year’s. The district serves about two-thirds of the county including 191,000 residents in central and southern Marin.
A large-scale renewable energy project proposed jointly by the City of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority received $18 million in the state budget signed this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom, enough to advance the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility through initial design, environmental reviews, and the federal licensing process.
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.
Energy for 135,000 households
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.
“I want to thank Governor Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and all the members of the Legislature for funding a vital San Diego project that will help us provide reliable, clean energy,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “This innovative partnership with the San Diego County Water Authority will help our City meet its climate goals while building sustainable infrastructure and supporting good-paying local jobs.”
Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher also highlighted the work of state leaders and staff at both agencies who have been collaborating on project plans for years.
“The San Vicente Energy Storage Facility will reduce the chances for rolling blackouts by storing renewable energy for use when it’s needed most,” Croucher said. “We owe a debt of gratitude to Gov. Gavin Newsom and Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins for ensuring funding for this critical infrastructure project, which will create more than 1,000 construction-related jobs in addition to its other benefits.”
Environmental reviews, licensing
With state funding in place, the Water Authority and the City are preparing to launch federal and state environmental reviews, seek a project license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and issue a Request for Proposals for a full-service private partner to help develop the project. Those complex components are expected to take at least four years, with construction completion forecast for 2030.
“California has a proud history of adopting forward-thinking solutions to our biggest challenges, and the San Vicente Energy Storage Project is no exception,” said Sen. Atkins of San Diego. “This may well be a pivotal moment in our statewide efforts to meet peak power needs and maximize our use of renewable energy.”
Pumped energy storage
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 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.
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.
For more details about the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility go to: www.sdcwa.org/projects/san-vicente-pumping-facilities/
July 16, 2021 – A large-scale renewable energy project proposed jointly by the City of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority received $18 million in the state budget signed this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom, enough to advance the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility through initial design, environmental reviews, and the federal licensing process.
As California continues to face a drought brought on by record-breaking temperatures, Gov. Gavin Newsom is asking residents to reduce their water usage by 15%. However, this request does not apply to San Diego County.
Sandra Kerl, General Manager at the San Diego County Water Authority, joined KUSI’s Logan Byrnes on Good Evening San Diego to discuss what “America’s Finest City” is doing right.
Kerl explained that due to a “portfolio” of different water supplies and long-term conservation efforts, the city has enough water supply for now, despite the state’s drought.
On July 8, Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded two earlier drought emergency declarations to cover 50 of the state’s 58 counties. In May, he directed state agencies to consider easing requirements for reservoir releases to conserve water upstream, and to make water transfers easier. Both are needed.
Notably, the governor’s emergency proclamation did not impose water conservation mandates. Instead, Gov. Newsom is leaving water conservation to each region — a smart and necessary approach that incentivizes regional investments in water supply.
Emergency conservation orders address short-term water shortages, but don’t move us toward the long-term goal of drought resilience. That requires strategic investments in local drought-resilient water supply projects, costs mostly borne at the local level.
The state recently took a step in the right direction by approving $3.5 billion in budgeted funds for water projects, but the details of how that money will be used are still being worked out. It is important that funds are directed to local drought-resilience projects. That would go a long way toward accelerating the 21st-century water solutions we need.
Consider our two regions: Sacramento and San Diego. We both have dry summers, but our water supplies are very different.
San Diego’s water comes from locally developed and imported water sources. Sacramento’s supplies come from nearby rivers fed by snowmelt and groundwater. That’s why we’ve chosen to solve our water supply challenges very differently.
Lawmakers in Congress on Friday introduced a bill that would pump tens of billions of dollars into fixing and upgrading the country’s dams.
The Twenty-First Century Dams Act, introduced by Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster of New Hampshire, proposes to spend nearly $26 billion to make the repairs that would enhance safety and increase the power generation capacity of the country’s 90,000 dams. It also calls for removing any dams that have outlived their usefulness.