Inland Empire Utilities Agency and Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority Launch Battery and Solar Project

Rancho Cucamonga, CA – The Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA) and Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority (IERCA) will host a dedication event for their award-winning, landmark water-energy project on September 19 at 10:00 a.m. IEUA and IERCA have partnered with Advanced Microgrid Solutions to expand its existing solar and battery storage system. The system uses Tesla battery technology to integrate so lar and wind in order to optimize renewable generation, reduce demand on the electric grid and lower energy costs.

The project aims to reduce the demand charges by charging the batteries with on-site renewable generation (solar and wind turbine) and low-cost (off-peak) electricity, then discharging the batteries for on-site power use during high-demand (mid-peak or on-peak) periods. The system is expected to reduce demand by over 2.5 million kilowatt hours each year.

What: Dedication to launch the IEUA/IERCA Battery and Solar Project

Where: IEUA’s Regional Water Recycling Plant No. 4, 12811 6th Street, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739. When: September 19, 2019, 10:00 a.m.
Who: Inland Empire Utilities Agency and Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority

About Inland Empire Utilities Agency

The Inland Empire Utilities Agency covers 242-square miles, distributes imported water, provides industrial/municipal wastewater collection and treatment services and other related utility services to more than 875,000 people through its member agencies which include Chino, Chino Hills, Cucamonga Valley Water District, Fontana, Fontana Water Company, Montclair, Monte Vista Water District, Ontario and Upland. To learn more, visit www.ieua.org.

Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority

The Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority (IERCA) was created as a public entity on February 27, 2002 by a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) between the Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA) and County Sanitation Districts of LA County (LACSD). This agreement empowered both IEUA and LACSD to acquire, construct, operate and maintain a composting facility. IEUA and LACSD have jointly evaluated composting as an economically and environmentally-sound method of beneficially reusing biosolids that are generated from the wastewater treatment facilities operated by each.

 

Inland Empire Utilities Agency and Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority Launch Battery and Solar Project, Press Release, InlandEmpire.US, September 12, 2019.

Geothermal holds great promise for California — especially for our desert

Geothermal energy is the recovery of heat from the Earth that is then converted to electricity or used directly. It is a renewable energy source that emits very low green-house gases, just like solar or wind power, except that the energy comes from deep within the planet beneath our feet.

California is going through an amazing transition to 100% renewable and clean power by 2045. That’s incredibly exciting for all of us, geothermal experts and general public alike, as the Golden State leads the transition to a reduced-carbon economy, vehicle electrification and long-term sustainability of our energy.

Geothermal power production creates quality jobs and contributes to local economies near the resources. For every two megawatts of geothermal development there are five jobs created. California is blessed with a large amount of geothermal resources at its fingertips. Imperial Valley, just south of the Coachella Valley, is one of the most promising regions for geothermal power generation in the western hemisphere. Positive economic impacts are felt throughout Southern California where suppliers and supporting companies are based.

Many members of the Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) Southern California Section can share stories of how the industry is benefiting the region with 540 MWs of generating capacity (powering 405,000 homes) and commercial operations starting in 1982. The local business group meets regularly in Brawley and has a vibrant attendance, led by Jon Trujillo of La Quinta and Mary Mann of Palm Desert. Jon is a geothermal Resource Manager and President-Elect for the parent GRC organization with over 1,300 members in over 40 countries. Mary is a geologist and is Co-Chair for GRC’s Annual Meeting & Expo, where over 1,000 experts from around the world will be meeting in Palm Springs, Sept. 15-18.

The most recent facility in the area, the John L. Featherstone Plant, opened in 2012. As a renewable baseload resource, geothermal creates electricity day and night without interruption, meaning that it can promote reliability and resilience in the power grid that was built around continuous, but nonrenewable, coal, natural gas and nuclear power.

After an in-depth technical review, the state of California has defined a target of nearly 3,000 MWs of geothermal net generation supplied to the grid by 2030. This means that the state needs to double installed capacity in the next 10 years and will be the largest producer of geothermal power in the world by a very large margin. Much of that investment will focus on the known resources of the Imperial Valley and the surrounding areas. In addition to energy production from the hot fluids extracted from the rock deep below the Salton Sea, there is a vast source of lithium within the geothermal resource. This resource may soon provide 90,000 metric tons of lithium annually to the growing market for batteries and electric vehicles. A vital future industry.

The GRC’s conference in Palm Springs is the geothermal industry’s flagship annual gathering, with representation from 33 countries, 240 companies, and 40 universities attending our meeting in 2018. Be sure to visit the Geothermal 101 presentation and Expo hall open to the public on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 9:00 am. Everybody is welcome.

Other states, and other countries around the world, are following California’s example on renewable power and greenhouse gas targets, making the transition to sustainable renewable energy over the next few decades. It all means there’s a promising future for the people of the Coachella and Imperial valleys.

 

Valley Voice: Geothermal holds great promise for California — especially for our desert, by Will Pettitt, The Desert Sun, September 3, 2019.

The world’s longest running solar farm

Solar power made up nearly 500GW of capacity worldwide at the end of 2018, just over 4% of the world’s energy mix.  Solar power is particularly prominent in China, the global leader in solar panel production and the US state of California.

Solar power has been so successful in California that on particularly sunny day’s power is offloaded to neighbouring states in case it overloads the state’s power lines. Meanwhile the Chinese solar industry has benefited from outsourcing from Europe and government subsidies, until those were halted in 2018.

This technology had to start somewhere and did so with the Lugo solar farm in San Bernadino County, California in December 1982. This facility has since closed, which begs the question, what is the world’s longest-running solar farm?

Solar Energy Generating Systems

Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) is a group of nine geothermal solar farms in the Mojave Desert in California, and is the world’s longest-operating solar plant still in commercial production.

The development of the solar farms was staggered throughout the 1980s, with SEG I and II constructed in 1986. These were followed by SEGS III-VII in 1988 and VIII and IX in 1990, which boast a production capacity of 150MW and 160MW respectively.

major fire took place at SEG II in February 1999 after a storage tank on the site exploded and burnt for hours, forcing the evacuation of a half-square-mile area around the facility. The fire was so strong that efforts to put it out were described as being akin to: “putting out a house fire with a garden hose” by local firefighters, and the episode cast doubts over the future of the plant.

SEG I and II ceased production as geothermal solar farms in 2014 before being recommissioned as photovoltaic (PV) solar farms in 2017, with a joint capacity of 33.8MW and owned by California-based Sunray Energy.

SEG III-IX are owned by energy company NextEra Energy Resources, which notes that its operations cover an area of 1,500 acres and is formed of over 900,000 mirrors to create energy. It is also able to offset 3,800 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

As a geothermal solar plant, the panels capture sunlight to heat a synthetic oil called therminol which heats water to create steam, which is then piped to a turbine-generator to produce electricity. NextEra says that the plant can still generate electricity on cloudy days, as it has backup natural gas systems that heat the water to create steam instead.

With a capacity of 354MW, the solar farm was once amongst the largest in the world in 2013 before it was superseded by more modern solar farms. In total, SEGS generates around 662-gigawatt hours (GWh) per year. This energy generated from SEGS is sold to electricity provider Southern California Edison through a power purchase agreement.

Solar power in California

California is the leading state in the US for solar power, with 25GW installed at the end of 2018 according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The 25GW is formed from nearly one million installations across the state, and is enough to power over six million homes in the state alone. A further 15GW is expected to be added in the next five years. In total, solar power provides California with 19% of its electricity needs.

As well as being the state leader in solar power, California aims to be a leader in renewable energy, with Governor Jerry Brown committing the state to obtaining 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2045.

Solar power will play a major role in this transformation, with SEGS now being overtaken by PV solar farms such as the 550MW Topaz solar farm in San Luis Obispo and the 550MW Desert Sunlight solar farm in Riverside County.

 

The world’s longest running solar farm, by Jack Unwin, Power Technology, August 20, 2019.

Avangrid To Sell Wind Energy To CalChoice

Avangrid Renewables has announced three new power purchase agreements (PPAs) with the California Choice Energy Authority (CalChoice).

CalChoice will buy the entire output of the 22.44 MW Mountain View III Wind Farm starting in 2021 on behalf of three of its members: Apple Valley Choice Energy, the Rancho Mirage Energy Authority and Lancaster Choice Energy. The Mountain View III project is located in Palm Springs, Calif.

CalChoice is a joint powers authority (JPA) designed to help Southern California cities form and operate community choice aggregation programs without having to sacrifice control or other benefits associated with a traditional JPA. It was created by the cities of Lancaster and San Jacinto.

“Helping communities in Southern California deliver locally generated clean energy is an inspiring market development that CalChoice has helped enable,” says Diana Scholtes, vice president of renewable origination and strategies for Avangrid Renewables. “Our diverse asset fleet, paired with community choice aggregation programs, permits us to offer flexible, customer-driven products to cities and counties seeking competitive, clean energy solutions.”

“CalChoice is excited to partner with Avangrid Renewables in purchasing locally produced wind energy,” notes CalChoice’s executive director, Jason Caudle. “We are committed to pursuing clean, locally situated energy supply options for our members, and the Mountain View III Wind Farm was a perfect fit in this regard. We look forward to working with Avangrid Renewables during the upcoming 10-year delivery period.”

The Mountain View III Wind Farm generates approximately 70,000 MWh per year, enough to power more than 8,000 typical California homes annually.

 

Avangrid To Sell Wind Energy To CalChoice,by Betsy Lillian, North American Wind Power, August 20, 2019.

Inland leaders defend natural gas in homes, businesses

There’s no need to take away Californians’ gas-powered stoves and heaters and raise their energy costs to fight climate change, Inland elected officials, business leaders and representatives of the natural gas industry said Monday, Aug. 5.

The Inland Empire Economic Partnership joined Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions at a Riverside news conference to urge state officials not to eliminate the use of natural gas in homes and businesses as part of an effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

They were confronted by about 20 sign-waving and surgical mask-wearing protesters who demanded an end to natural-gas use. Their chants – “Zero emissions now!” among others – threatened to drown out speakers at the news conference in front of the County Administrative Center.

About 90% of homes in Central and Southern California use natural gas for cooking and heating, according to the balanced-energy group, which describes itself as “a coalition of natural and renewable gas users.” Its board members include representatives of utility workers’ unions and the Western Propane Gas Association.

….

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Rancho Mirage residents benefit from city’s community choice power program

Last year, the city of Rancho Mirage launched Rancho Mirage Energy Authority (RMEA): a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program that offers residents and local businesses an alternative to Southern California Edison (SCE), the investor-owned utility.

RMEA allows the city to procure and generate electricity for the community at lower rates than SCE. RMEA’s default choice, Base Choice, saves customers 5% on electricity when compared to SCE (generation rates).

In its first operational year, RMEA has saved the Rancho Mirage community $1.46 million in electricity costs.

Beyond lower electricity rates, RMEA’s “Base Choice” also provides 50% carbon-free energy. Customers may also opt up to the 100% renewable energy choice, Premium Renewable Choice, for a slightly higher cost. The Rancho Mirage City Council has opted up all 160 municipal meters in the city to the Premium Renewable Choice.

As a leader in sustainability, Rancho Mirage is always looking for ways to expand its sustainability efforts and RMEA has proven to be the perfect extension.

Given the sun’s power in the desert, RMEA also wanted to enhance the benefits for solar net metering customers within our community. During the formation of RMEA, the city worked with Renova Energy to ensure RMEA would enhance solar net metering benefits. Thanks to Renova Energy’s involvement and suggestions, RMEA can offer a stronger net metering program for the Rancho Mirage community.

RMEA has also enabled the city to establish a Residential Solar Rebate Program which offers residential customers a $500 rebate to install new solar power systems or expand an existing solar system. Within RMEA’s first year, ­­­­­­­­­­­­­191 customers have received $95,500 total in rebates.

RMEA was the sixth CCA program to launch in SCE’s service territory and is currently the only operational CCA in the Coachella Valley. While Rancho Mirage had the opportunity to join regional CCA efforts, the city (after extensive research) determined that launching RMEA would be the best way to serve the community.

Our viewpoint is simple: if we can deliver a better product to our community by doing it ourselves, we do it ourselves. The Rancho Mirage City Council and city staff want to be in a position to ensure our community receives the quality they deserve and rightfully expect. When there is an issue or concern, we want to be in a position to address and fix the issues, instead of deflecting to a regional runaround.

RMEA is a prime example of this viewpoint and the results speak for themselves.

Recently, RMEA secured a renewable energy long-term contract for 22 megawatts of wind power from the windmills in north Palm Springs. RMEA is also expanding local energy efficiency programs for the community. Moving forward, RMEA will continue to find opportunities to expand its renewable energy portfolio in the Coachella Valley.

The city of Rancho Mirage looks forward to lowering our carbon footprint even more and providing rate savings to customers while reinvesting revenues back into the community.

The RMEA has surpassed expectations for year one and the city of Rancho Mirage is excited to continue these efforts on behalf of residents and businesses.

Ted Weill is a member of the Rancho Mirage City Council, and has served on the panel since December 2012. Email him at tedw@ranchomirageca.gov.

 

Valley Voice: Rancho Mirage residents benefit from city’s community choice power program, by Ted Well, Desert Sun, July 2, 2019.

GE Will Shutter California Natural Gas Plant 20 Years Early

Pity poor General Electric. Once the dominant global leader in turbines for making electricity from coal or natural gas, its business has hit the skids in recent years as demand for its products has collapsed. We can thank the steep decline in the price of renewable energy for that.

Now GE has notified the California Energy Commission it is shuttering a natural gas generating facility it owns and operates in Riverside, California, according to Reuters. The Inland Empire plant was only commissioned in 2009. Such generating facilities normally have a 30-year useful life, so GE is losing two-thirds of its roughly $1 billion investment in the plant.

The problem is two-fold. One, the Inland Empire Power Plant is fitted with GE H series turbines, which have proved troublesome in service. The only other facility in the world that used the H series turbines is located in Wales. Two, those turbines are not easy to start and stop quickly. As renewables have become more common in California, the Inland Empire plant is ill-suited to ramping up when the supply of renewable energy dwindles due to a lack of sunshine or wind.

“We have made the decision to shut down operation of the Inland Empire Power Plant which has been operating below capacity for several years effective at the end of 2019,” GE told Reuters. The plant “is powered by a legacy gas turbine technology … and is uneconomical to support further.” It said in its filing with the California Energy Commission that the plant is “not designed for the needs of the evolving California market, which requires fast-start capabilities to satisfy peak demand periods.”

The Inland Empire facility has two H series turbines but one of them was shut down permanently in 2017 as changes in the California energy market made it uneconomical to keep in operation. GE now offers customers its new HA series turbines that react more quickly to changes in energy demand and eliminate the maintenance problems associated with the H Series turbines.

Reuters says the closure highlights the stiff competition in California’s deregulated energy market as cheap wind and solar supply more electricity, squeezing out fossil fuels. Some utilities say they have no plans to build more fossil plants, which is great news for the environment.

There’s a kicker to this story that CleanTechnica readers will appreciate. After the Inland Empire plant is dismantled, GE will sell the site to a company that makes battery storage units for the renewable energy market. Is that poetic justice or what?

 

GE Will Shutter California Natural Gas Plant 20 Years Early, by Steve Hanley, Clean Technica, June 21, 2019.

No, we shouldn’t pump desert groundwater near Joshua Tree to help store electricity

For years developers have tried to figure out how to repurpose Kaiser Steel’s former open-pit iron mine at Eagle Mountain in Riverside County. One idea: Use it as a massive landfill, a proposal that fortunately never came to fruition. The current owners of the site now want to convert it into an immense, $2.5-billion hydroelectric battery, using daytime power to pump water from a lower-elevation pit to a pit 1,400 feet farther up the mountain, then running the water downhill at night through turbines to create energy.

As California sprints to convert to all-renewable energy sources, it is confronting a persistent problem: what to do when the sun goes down and solar farms stop generating electricity, or when the doldrums hit and wind turbines stop churning. These sources produce more electricity than can be consumed immediately, but the grid doesn’t have the storage capacity to save the power for when night falls or the wind stops. And as a result, solar farms have been going offline or producers have been giving away their excess watts.

California already has several pumped-water storage systems, and that approach, while expensive to build, has been relatively reliable. It makes a certain amount of sense in places where water flows naturally, so long as the projects don’t harm the local environment. Still, technology may be making such systems obsolete, as developments in batteries and other storage technologies are preparing a path to cheaper and more efficient systems.

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An abandoned mine near Joshua Tree could host a massive hydropower project

An abandoned iron mine on the doorstep of Joshua Tree National Park could be repurposed as a massive hydroelectric power plant under a bill with bipartisan support in the state Legislature.

Senate Bill 772, which was approved by a panel of lawmakers last week with no dissenting votes, would require California to build energy projects that can store large amounts of power for long periods of time. It’s a type of technology the state is likely to need as utility companies buy more and more energy from solar and wind farms, which generate electricity only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.

But SB 772 is a controversial solution to that problem. The bill could jump-start a $2.5-billion hydropower project that critics say would harm Joshua Tree National Park, draining desert groundwater aquifers and sapping above-ground springs that nourish wildlife in and around the park.

The bill is being pushed by NextEra Energy, a Florida-based company that hopes to build the proposed Eagle Mountain hydropower project.

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Southern California Edison Picks 195MW Battery Portfolio in Place of Puente Gas Plant

What started as a routine gas plant procurement ended as a testament to the changing electrical grid.

This week, utility Southern California Edison selected a roster of energy storage projects to supply local capacity needs around the coastal city of Oxnard, instead of the 262-megawatt natural-gas peaker plant it had chosen previously.

If regulators give their approval, Strata Solar will build and own a 100-megawatt/400-megawatt-hour system in Oxnard, and dispatch it on behalf of SCE.

This system will tie for largest lithium-ion battery in the world when it comes online in December 2020; the AES Alamitos plant of the same size is due around the same time.

SCE wants to complement the massive battery with a portfolio of smaller units, ranging from 10 to 40 megawatts, scattered around the area. Developers of those smaller include E.ON, Able Grid, Ormat, AltaGas and Enel. Swell, which aggregates fleets of home batteries into grid assets, won a 14-megawatt contract for behind-the-meter demand response.

The unprecedented outcome, in which independent power producer NRG saw its gas plant yanked before the final round of siting approval, marks a victory for local activists who rallied against what they saw as unnecessary fossil fuel infrastructure marring the Southern California coastline, as well as clean energy providers who had to prove they were ready for prime time.

“The big takeaway is the power of community opposition,” said Earthjustice attorney Matt Vespa, who intervened in the case on behalf of the Sierra Club. “Puente was viewed as a done deal. […] It was going to be on the beach, and now we have clean energy investment in that community instead of a gas plant.”

The rapid ascent of storage

The Puente saga tracks the evolution of California grid-planning attitudes in real time.

The story began with SCE’s solicitation in 2013, in which NRG won a contract to replace retiring gas plants in the area.

Capacity planning was simpler then: predict regional reliability needs, build gas plants to meet them. Batteries were growing their share of the frequency regulation market in PJM territory, but they were not competing for longer-duration power plant duties.

That changed over the following years. When the Aliso Canyon gas leak left swaths of Southern California under-resourced for local capacity, the state fast-tracked battery procurements to fill the gap. They got up and running within half a year, swifter than conventional power plant permitting allows, and the grid held firm despite the gas constraint.

By the time NRG sought final siting approval from the California Energy Commission in 2017, storage was taking on a larger role in the state’s grid planning ecosystem. Stakeholders pushed for an evaluation of gas plant alternatives before regulators signed off on Puente.

The grid operator, CAISO, initially determined that energy storage could fulfill the reliability needs, but that it would cost nearly three times as much. That analysis relied on outdated storage pricing data that exaggerated the technology’s costs, GTM reported at the time.

Within months, the commissioners signaled their intent to reject the gas plant and SCE decided to launch a new solicitation to see exactly how competitive storage and other resources had become. This week’s announcement wraps up that process; all that remains is final signoff from regulators.

During this time, California passed SB 100, which commits to a zero-carbon grid by 2045. Obeying that law requires phasing out gas for flexible capacity, with storage a front-runner to replace it.

That process is underway in select locations. Utility PG&E procured a series of huge batteries in November 2018 rather than pay to keep aging gas plants online for reliability purposes south of the San Francisco Bay. Los Angeles committed to phasing out gas powerrather than rebuilding three plants in its territory.

When Oxnard pushed back on Puente, there wasn’t much of a roadmap for how to do it. Now that approach is growing increasingly common.

“We got told so many times that we had to have Puente to keep the lights on,” Vespa said. “Communities all over the country are fighting this type of stuff. Hopefully this can be an example to not give up and keep pushing, no matter what you’re told.”

Test case for other states

Oxnard created a new, more creative paradigm for evaluating local reliability. Now the batteries need to work.

Since energy storage resources have finite capacities, they cannot run indefinitely like gas plants with sufficient supply. That requires different sorts of planning to ensure enough power to serve the community during peak or grid-constraint events.

That said, batteries provide operational benefits that gas plants lack, besides operating without local emissions (the greenhouse gas profile of the batteries depends on the mix of grid fuels when the battery charges).

“You need to match a technology to the need,” said Strata VP of Energy Storage Joshua Rogol. “The solution might look a little bit different, but…storage can provide valuable services to the grid when it’s not waiting around for a peak.”

The 20-year resource adequacy contract leaves Strata free to monetize the battery’s energy and ancillary benefits as a participant in the CAISO market, when it isn’t called on to fulfill its obligation to SCE. That in turn helps improve the project economics relative to a system that only operates during peak events.

Strata started out as a solar developer in North Carolina and branched into storage development over the last 18 months. While it may be a newcomer to large-scale storage, its accomplishments on the solar side demonstrate an aptitude for working at scale. The company has installed 1.5 gigawatts of solar, owns 1 gigawatt and operates an O&M portfolio of 2 gigawatts. Its U.S. energy storage pipeline has grown to 3 gigawatt-hours, Rogol said.

California led the early storage market, with a suite of supportive policies and regulatory support. The demand Strata has seen, however, cuts across many states, not to mention regulated and competitive markets, Rogol noted.

“We’ve been keeping a close eye on where there are constraints in the grid, where there’s thermal capacity coming offline, and looking at where the storage technology can solve a problem,” he said. “Our pipeline has increased exponentially in looking at storage replacing traditional generation for capacity.”

Batteries at the once-mindblowing 100-megawatt scale are becoming increasingly commonplace, in utility project announcements if not yet in practice. As sheer scale loses its shock value, displacing gas plants in head-to-head competition could offer a new way to impress.

 

Southern California Edison Picks 195MW Battery Portfolio in Place of Puente Gas Plant, by Julian Spector, Greentech Media, April 25, 2019.