California utilities agency increases efficiency with new storage system


The Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA) in California has launched a landmark water-energy project using advanced energy storage systems to integrate solar, wind, biogas and grid resources with the aim of optimizing renewable generation, reducing demand on the electric grid and lowering energy costs.

As part of what it describes as a “first-of-its-kind project,” IEUA will install approximately 3.5 MW of advanced energy storage systems at its regional water-recycling facilities and pump stations in Southern California. The agency has signed an agreement with San Francisco-based Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) to design, install and manage the project.

The energy storage systems will range in size from 150 kW to 1,250 kW and will be custom-designed to optimize IEUA’s on-site generation including solar, wind and biogas resources. The batteries will store excess renewable energy and use stored energy to power facilities when demand on the electric grid is high. IEUA said the energy storage systems would also provide “an added layer of protection against outages and enhance the agency’s ability to share the benefits of renewable resources between facilities.”

IEUA Board President Terry Catlin added, "Energy storage is the key to maximizing the value of those investments, allowing us to use our resources more efficiently, reduce costs for our customers and participate in building a more resilient electric grid for the whole region."

Describing the project as “groundbreaking,” AMS CEO Susan Kennedy said it was “designed to optimize energy resources in the management, treatment and distribution of water while enhancing the reliability and resiliency of both the electric grid and water management systems."

Integrating IEUA’s on-site renewable energy resources will reduce its peak demand from the grid by as much as 14% and reduce total energy costs by 5-10%, the agency added, stressing that the ability to store excess energy also provides “the most cost-effective means of sharing on-site renewable generation from among its facilities and provides an added layer of reliability for critical equipment in the event of power outages.”

AMS will use Tesla’s Powerpack commercial battery systems for the project.

"We’ve invested heavily in clean, efficient resources," Catlin said. "Using energy storage to optimize those resources and dynamically control consumption is the next crucial step forward in IEUA’s strategic energy plan to go ‘gridless’ by 2020 with almost no capital outlay by the agency.”

According to the California Energy Commission, the transportation and treatment of water, treatment and disposal of wastewater, and the energy used to heat and consume water account for nearly 20% of the total electricity and 30% of non-power plant related natural gas consumed in California.

The Inland Empire Utilities Agency covers 242-square miles (627 square kilometers), distributes imported water, provides industrial and municipal wastewater collection and treatment services and other related utility services to more than 830,000 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.