By Joe Grindstaff as posted in PublicCEO – Joe is the general manager of Inland Empire Utilities Agency and a CWEA member.
California is growing. Our population growth remains steady, as more people want to live and work here each year. And our economy continues to expand at a rate that would be the envy of many states in our nation, not to mention nations around the world.
That growth comes with responsibilities, including the important task of ensuring the people of our state can continue to rely on the water and energy supplies and services that utilities in California provide. Water and energy utilities have long shared a symbiotic connection: the “Water-Energy Nexus.” Put simply, it takes a lot of water to make electricity and it takes a lot of electricity to pump, move and, now, recycle and reuse water.
The Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA) has grown from a supplemental water source for the Chino Basin to a wholesale water supplier and regional wastewater district serving 875,000 customers. To successfully manage that growth over time, we have maintained a 66-year history of innovation and efficiency. Now, as we work to build a sustainable future, we continue to search for innovative solutions.
As part of that search, IEUA’s Board of Directors made the decision to invest in renewable generation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ensure energy cost savings and remove our facilities from the electric grid for peak power needs by 2020. Today, IEUA creates electricity with solar, wind and biofuel technology, producing more than half of the peak power demand for our wastewater treatment plants.
Many organizations with similar goals understand that renewable power sources can be unpredictable — the sun must be shining to create solar energy and we need wind to drive turbines. We need to be able to store the power we generate, so that it can be used when customers and the grid need it most. We have learned energy self-sustainability takes more than just making power — it takes management as well.
With this challenge in mind, IEUA has considered energy storage for our needs. Recent developments in battery technology and energy storage business models have made storage an efficient solution to our energy challenges. Borrowing from the practice of storing water in reservoirs until we need it, IEUA teamed with San Francisco-based Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) to install state-of-the-art Tesla Energy batteries at our wastewater treatment plants in a first-of-its-kind system. The created “energy reservoirs” will store excess energy generated by our onsite power resources or directly from the electric grid and make it available to IEUA and the grid when needed.