California Water Agencies Look to PV and DG

Water supply agencies in California are looking to solar photovoltaic and microturbines for on-site energy generation to help meet their needs.

SACRAMENTO, California, US, 2001-08-29 [] Water supply agencies in California are looking to solar photovoltaic and microturbines for on-site energy generation to help meet their needs. The Association of California Water Agencies set up a purchasing co-operative, ACWA-USA, which has arranged for water agencies to purchase microturbine generators and PV systems at reduced costs. The cooperative has also put together an energy consulting program to help water agencies evaluate their systems and analyze alternatives for reducing costs. “Water agencies account for 5 to 7 percent of the electricity consumed in the state – making them the number one user among the state’s industries,” says executive director Stephen Hall. “With energy costs representing up to 80 percent of a water supplier’s operating costs, it’s no wonder water agencies are motivated to find ways to lessen the impact on their operations and their customers.” At a major conference on energy issues held in Sacramento, Hall outlined an array of steps water agencies are taking to deal with skyrocketing energy bills and the threat of outages. The conference was sponsored by the California Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy. Although many water agencies have been forced to raise water rates to keep up with rising energy costs, water suppliers are making great strides in reducing energy usage by installing more efficient pumps and shifting some operations to off-peak times, he explained. Water agencies are seeking not only to reduce costs but also to avoid the threat of rotating power outages. Water and wastewater agencies in California are not exempt from blackouts under current state regulations, and water agency managers fear that a one-hour outage could trigger problems that would disrupt water service for two or three days, Last March, ACWA-USA and cleen ‘n green energy inc. signed an agreement to supply public water agencies in California with power from renewable sources. The agreement guaranteed that participating water agencies could purchase green energy for prices below those offered by the state Power Exchange. The agreement called for c’ng to provide 100 percent renewable power at below utility prices for all participating water agency accounts using less than 50 kW. But clean ‘n green inc. has ceased operations in California, because of “the unstable regulatory and economic energy situation,” it explains. “We regret that Californians no longer have a choice as to how their energy is created. A choice to reduce pollution caused by nuclear, coal, and fossil-fuel power plants. A choice to let your children grow up in a healthier, cleaner environment,” it explains on its website ( in an explanation of its actions. “The California electricity market was never truly deregulated and the process signed into law was seriously flawed,” says the Clean ‘n green site. “Although PG&E and SCE, now in deep debt, present themselves as victims, it was the utilities who most had the biggest hand in drawing up the blueprint of the system. What appeared to be a process that would make a major windfall for the utilities (a $28 billion payoff) to allow deregulation, actually came back to bite them in the fanny. The utilities assumed that wholesale energy prices would not exceed total tariffed energy rates. Since they could not charge more than those rates, any difference became debt.” “As well, the system was set up so that when energy producers offer a selling price into the system, all the bidders receive the highest price accepted,” it continues. “Is that insane? We think so. That’s why government agencies, such as the Bonneville Power Authority (a federal agency) made billions of dollars in profit from California even though their offerings were very reasonably priced!” “We clearly state our position and what we believe should be done in California on our page on deregulation,” says the web site. “We could go on and on about how the present course of action (though a well kept secret by the Governor) does not appear to be a very good fix. But no one is listening to us – except the people, concerned about stable pricing and a clean environment.” ACWA is a state organization with 440 member public water agencies, responsible for 90 percent of the water delivered in California.
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