The Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) and Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) announced a public-private partnership to install the largest network of energy storage systems at a public water agency in the United States. The grid support project will enable the public water agency to store energy, making it available to reduce demand from the grid when requested by the utility without interrupting water treatment operations and reducing the need for additional supply from fossil fuel generation in a region challenged by the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
This partnership puts IRWD at the forefront of addressing one of California’s great environmental challenges — the water-energy nexus. Water and energy use are inextricably intertwined — the pumping, treatment, and distribution of water requires significant amounts of electricity. Public water agencies are aggressively exploring how best to smooth high energy demands, decrease costs, and reduce their carbon footprints.
The system will provide IRWD cost savings of more than $500,000 per year, help stabilize and balance demand on the strapped Southern California electrical grid, and ultimately advance IRWD’s sustainability efforts.
“Our agency has stepped forward with an innovative solution designed to protect customers while helping to reduce and better balance Southern California’s energy demands,” said Mary Aileen Matheis, IRWD board president. “This battery storage system — the largest in the nation — provides significant cost savings, enhanced grid stability, and contributes to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a smaller carbon footprint.”
“We’re proud to partner with IRWD on such an advanced, clean energy project,” said Susan Kennedy, CEO of AMS. “This energy storage system builds on IRWD’s sustainability and efficiency commitment, taking it to a new level in tackling the water-energy nexus.”
The 7-MW/34-MWh network will utilize Tesla batteries, installed at 11 of IRWD’s largest and most energy-intensive facilities — including three water treatment and recycling plants, a deep aquifer treatment system, a groundwater desalter facility, and six high-energy pumping stations — as part of a major grid modernization project for Southern California Edison (SCE). The energy storage systems will be linked together as a network, providing IRWD facility managers real-time visibility and operational flexibility in responding to utility requests for demand reduction.
According to the California Energy Commission, transportation and treatment of water, treatment and disposal of wastewater, and the energy used to heat and consume water account for nearly 20 percent of the total electricity and 30 percent of non-power plant-related natural gas consumed in California.
IRWD is already a national leader in sustainability and energy efficiency. In 2015, the district commissioned a study to examine the average amount of energy needed to transport, treat, and deliver water to customers on a per-unit basis (kWh/acre-foot). Each facility — a pump station or treatment plant, for example — has its own “Energy Intensity.” The study provides IRWD with a complete view of its water-energy footprint and will be used with the energy storage systems to reduce the district’s energy and carbon footprint while reducing costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. This is the first instance of a public water agency actively commissioning such research.
The IRWD-AMS Project is supported by a 10-year power-purchase agreement with SCE. Under that agreement, AMS will design, finance, install, and operate energy storage systems at IRWD facilities and manage requests from SCE for load reduction at IRWD’s facilities when needed to balance the grid.
“Our utility-scale contracts make possible the realization of guaranteed savings and accomplishment for organizations — particularly public water agencies such as IRWD — with serious energy and emissions reduction goals,” Kennedy said.