Glacial Energy Blog

Water Energy Innovations

waste water plantCalifornia is facing a situation where up to 12,000 megawatts of electricity generation facilities will be retired or repurposed. However, the state’s water and wastewater facilities will be able to increase reliability while decreasing the need for centralized power plants and electricity demand. How can they do all this? Water Energy Innovations, Inc. has released a report addressing the use of natural gas for generating electricity.

The electrical capacity that California is looking at losing – about 12,000 megawatts – which is equal to nearly 20% of the state’s historical peak electric demand. To further complicate things, this is happening when the state’s grid operator has noticed there is an immediate need for “flexible power.”  A flexible power facility is one that can power up quickly and increase or decrease the out-flow of hundreds of megawatts at a time, often over just a few minutes. These flexible power facilities are required to integrate the steadily growing number of solar and wind resources that are expected to come online by the year 2020. Because of this, California needs to expand its electrical capacity, but if the state can reduce its need for electricity, it won’t need to expand quite so much.

Water and wastewater facilities demand several thousand megawatts of energy in the summer months to pump water. These months also see the peak demand for water and electricity. However, by converting over to natural gas to provide electricity to these facilities, the state will reduce the need for new power plants and high voltage transmission lines. Natural gas facilities are also much less expensive to install and are better suited to the task of generating varying rates of electricity required by the water sector. Using natural gas will promote fuel diversity, which will help balance the energy supply and price risks, increase operational flexibility and reliable delivery of water supplies.  This will also reduce the high cost and environmental impact of large power plants.

California’s water sector already contributes significantly to electrical reliability by utilizing renewable energy and being more energy efficient. Some facilities already use natural gas when energy demands are high, but expanding the use of natural gas will further reduce the need for inefficient power plants and greenhouse gases.

Photo:  A waste water plant

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