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Renewable energy — energy from natural resources such as sunlight, wind and water — is quickly becoming a critical component of California’s power supply. As a water supplier and a clean energy-conscious agency, the Water Authority is pursuing hydroelectric and solar energy projects as part of its infrastructure and at its offices.
The Water Authority owns and operates the Rancho Peñasquitos in-line hydro generation facility, which has been providing clean, renewable energy to the local power grid since December 2006.
The power is generated using a single 4.5-megawatt horizontal turbine, sold to San Diego Gas and Electric, and delivered to the grid. The facility, which operates year round and is controlled by the Water Authority’s central control site, provides 25,000 to 30,000 megawatt-hours (mWh) of renewable energy annually, enough electricity for approximately 5,000 San Diego households.
Rancho Peñasquitos not only reduces the Water Authority’s energy costs and acts as a source of clean energy for San Diego, it also generates more than $1 million in annual revenue for the Water Authority, allowing the agency to recover the costs of the facility in approximately seven years. Using hydroelectric power instead of electricity from fossil fuel power plants will also eliminate the equivalent of 60,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year.
The Water Authority entered into a power purchase agreement for the installation of photovoltaic solar panels at its headquarters in San Diego, its operations center in Escondido, and at the Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant.
The power purchase agreement with Borrego Solar Systems enabled the Water Authority to install solar without the use of Water Authority funds for the design, construction or maintenance of the project. Under the power purchase agreement, the Water Authority purchases the solar power under a pre-set price structure, and the provider is responsible for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the systems.
New solar power systems installed at the Water Authority’s San Diego headquarters and the Escondido Operations Center and Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant produce an estimated 2.6 million kWh of renewable power each year. The 20-year agreement with Borrego Solar Systems will save the Water Authority approximately $1.7 million over the lifetime of the agreement, and will support the agency’s commitment to sustainability.
Related Energy Projects
Lake Hodges Pumped Storage
The Lake Hodges Projects are part of the Water Authority's Emergency & Carryover Storage Project, a system of reservoirs, interconnected pipelines and pumping stations designed to make water available to the San Diego region in the event of an interruption in imported water deliveries. When water is transferred downhill from Olivenhain Reservoir into Hodges Reservoir, it generates up to 40 megawatts of peak hydroelectric energy, enough power to annually sustain nearly 26,000 homes. This energy helps offset project operating costs and support future Water Authority projects.
San Vicente Energy Storage Facility Study
The Water Authority and the City of San Diego are joint permittees on a preliminary permit issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which allows the agencies to pursue development of a pumped storage facility near San Vicente Reservoir. The preliminary permit is an early step in the process of determining if and how the Water Authority and the City could develop the project in the next decade.
The potential up to 500-megawatt pumped storage project would supplement the region's energy needs during peak demand periods and generate up to 8 hours of stored energy, enough to supply approximately 325,000 homes annually.