Fontana Water Company (FWC) officials joined California lawmakers at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in February to commemorate an innovative hydroelectric project that generates enough electricity to power a local water treatment plant and transmits any excess power to the local utility grid. If the California Public Utilities Commission approves the project in FWC’s current general rate case, the savings in electricity costs will be passed on to FWC’s customers.
The technology, “in-conduit” hydroelectric generation, takes advantage of existing water flow through FWC’s Sandhill Surface Water Treatment Plant in Rialto. The energy that is being converted to electricity originates from the difference between the pressure when the water first enters the plant, up to 140 pounds per square inch (psi), and the lower pressure needed to safely operate the plant, about 10 psi.
By producing electricity without burning fossil fuels, the project is recognized as a renewable and sustainable source of power. The two in-line turbines produce zero-emissions electricity, or “green energy,” and consequently, the new facility helps meet the state’s climate change goals. The environmental benefits are equivalent to supplying energy to 194 homes, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 950 tons and offsetting carbon emissions from 294 vehicles.
With project costs totaling approximately $1.7 million, FWC secured two grants to cover a portion of the costs – $498,000 from the federal government and $337,500 from the state.
“This is a win-win-win project,” said Robert K. Young, FWC General Manager. “By taking advantage of state and federal grants, the project was very cost effective. Electricity is one of our biggest expenses, so this will assist in decreasing those costs while helping to hold down the cost of water to our customers.”
Attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony were U.S. Representative Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Montclair) and California Assembly Member Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino), who represent Fontana and the surrounding area, as well as Fontana City Council Member Jesse Sandoval.
“Fontana Water Company’s hydro project bordering the communities of Fontana and Rialto is going to make a big difference in the Inland Empire,” said Representative Negrete McLeod. “Everyone will benefit from the use of this technology. For a small federal investment of less than half a million dollars, we’ve put people to work at good paying construction jobs, made the water system more reliable and helped control future costs. This one small facility will generate enough electricity to run the entire plant, and it will sell power back to Southern California Edison. ”
“This power plant is exactly what the state has been trying to encourage with policies on climate change, renewable portfolio standards and distributed generation,” said Assembly Member Brown. “The Self Generation Incentive Program was created more than a decade ago to stimulate the development of many small-scale generation systems using a wide variety of technologies. I’m so pleased that this plant, the first of its kind in Southern California, became a reality, in part, because of this program.”
“This highly efficient, clean, renewable power plant represents an important milestone for the water company, our customers and California,” said FWC CEO Michael Whitehead. “We all need to make wise and efficient use of our natural resources. Using drinking water supplies to generate clean and renewable energy helps us achieve these important goals.”
Construction of the Sandhill Hydroelectric Station began in May 2013 and was completed in November. The plant has been tested and is now in service.