RIALTO, CA -- The City of Rialto, in partnership with Rialto Water Services and Veolia North America, have announced their joint commitment to the next phase of an ambitious plan to design and install a microgrid powered through a unique combination of biogas cogeneration, solar power and backup battery storage to supply electricity for the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
The innovative project, one of the first of its kind in California, is meant to bring the city greater energy independence, resilience and efficiency to protect its essential wastewater treatment system.
“As California and the rest of the country contend with a growing number of natural disasters linked to climate change -- including widespread power outages and brownouts caused by heat waves and wildfires -- the resilience offered by a microgrid power source is more important than ever,” said Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson.
“We recognize that the time has come to invest and think boldly and creatively in protecting our resources,” she said. “This project represents a great step forward in the way municipalities like ours can take positive steps toward a more green future.”
Brian Clarke, president and CEO of Veolia North America, said the company is proud to bring its expertise and resources to support the city’s vision for greater energy independence and sustainability. Veolia operates and maintains the treatment plant on behalf of the city and its partner, Rialto Water Services.
“I commend everyone involved for their commitment to making this vision a reality for the people of Rialto and the community’s natural resources,” he said. “It’s this kind of forward thinking that is putting Rialto in a position to meet the challenges that we all see coming down the road in the years ahead, both environmentally and economically.”
Besides the positive impact the project will have on energy efficiency and resilience, it will also contribute significantly to protecting crucial natural resources in the area. Rialto Mayor Pro Tem Ed Scott pointed out that the wastewater treatment plant is located near an environmentally sensitive waterway which supports a population of endangered Santa Ana suckerfish.
Once the new microgrid is in place, the plant will be less vulnerable to power outages that could cause the plant to shut down and lead to potential wastewater spills into nearby waterways.
“We know there is a great deal of concern about the endangered species which rely on our local resources,” Mayor Pro Tem Scott said. “We are proud to partner with government and grassroots level environmental groups to make the survival of the suckerfish and other species more secure.”
The microgrid project is expected to cost approximately $8 million once completed in 2024, with no funding coming from increased taxes in the community. Instead, the funding will be absorbed by a visionary concession arrangement under which the wastewater plant is operated. This 30-year public private partnership was established to improve operation of the City of Rialto’s water and wastewater system, and to raise significant capital from private equity partners and capital finance markets. The concession agreement’s initial funding allowed the city to invest in necessary capital improvements in the system while setting aside funding for deferred utility system lease payments and strategic reserve funds. With most of those initial efforts now completed, the microgrid project represents the first of the next-generation projects supporting the city’s commitment to innovation and sustainability. The microgrid project is expected to save the city approximately $350,000 per year in energy costs, with an average return on investment in about eight years.
The first stage of the microgrid project, a feasibility study conducted by VNA’s energy consulting company, SourceOne Inc., was recently completed. The Rialto City Council recently voted to approve the second phase, which will involve the design of the microgrid. With greater environmental sustainability in mind, the microgrid will be powered through a unique combination of biogas, solar power and backup power provided by batteries.