The Intersection of Water and Energy: Will a Wastewater Utility’s Energy Storage Project Transform the Industry?

Oct. 5, 2016

Wastewater facilities require a remarkable amount of energy to treat and convey water. However, a plant’s energy usage is also controllable, meaning that with the help of energy storage, a utility can charge batteries during non-peak hours and support the grid with load management. A handful of municipalities are exploring this concept. And one, Irvine Ranch Water District, is taking steps to make it a reality.

An early 2009 report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory initially outlined energy usage and demand response opportunities in wastewater treatment facilities. The study revealed that these facilities could provide load management and demand response support for the grid while saving energy and money.

“This study shows that wastewater treatment facilities can be excellent candidates for open automated demand response and that facilities which have implemented energy efficiency measures and have centralized control systems are well-suited to shift or shed electrical loads in response to financial incentives, utility bill savings, and/or opportunities to enhance reliability of service,” the abstract states.

And now, Irvine Ranch Water District, Orange County’s largest water utility, is putting the study’s results into practice. It will use an energy storage system to reduce energy costs and ease demand on the grid during peak hours. Electricity is currently the third largest expenditure on the utility’s budget. 

The project, a collaboration with Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS), is a 7 megawatt (MW) and 34 megawatt-hour (MWh) network that will utilize Tesla batteries to store power at 11 of Irving Ranch Water District’s (IRWD) most energy-intensive points in its operations, according to Water Deeply.

Energy storage will allow the water utility to charge batteries from the grid in the evening while demand is low and energy is less expensive. It will then draw from the batteries during peak daytime hours, reducing both costs and grid pressure. The district projects a savings of $500,000 a year.

“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 IRWD board president Mary Aileen Matheis in a press release.  “This battery storage systemthe largest in the nationprovides significant cost savings, enhanced grid stability, and contributes to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a smaller carbon footprint.”

While the IRWD project is the biggest, AMS has previously developed a successful 4 MW water project with Inland Empire Utilities Agency in San Bernardino County. It seems that projects such as these spotlight a growing area of opportunity for water agencies to utilize energy storage, not just to reduce the costs of their own operations, but to play a larger role in helping to reduce peak demand on the grid.

What are your thoughts? Is this something that your municipality has considered? How do feel this might change the industry?
About the Author

Laura Sanchez

Laura Sanchez is the editor of Distributed Energy and Water Efficiency magazines.