The Desert Water Agency could develop more renewable electricity to help power its operation and save money if a bill that passed its first test becomes law.
Assembly Bill 140 by Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City, would clear the way for the agency to use wind, solar or other renewable power sources for its water recycling plant.
Right now, the law creating the water agency in 1961 only allows it to produce power on its own with hydroelectric plants.
The agency has two hydroelectric facilities and a solar facility that was developed in a joint venture with Southern California Edison, according to David Luker, general manager of the water agency.
He said the agency can’t do much more with hydroelectric power and wants the flexibility to develop its own additional power sources.
“We’re doing $100,000 now” in savings with the existing renewable power facilities, Luker said.
By generating it’s own power for the recycling plant, “we could probably triple that and make it $300,000. It really helps the rate payers.”
The power generated is used in conjunction with Southern California Edison so the water agency meets it own needs and then sends excess power to the utility. At other times, such as night, the agency draws on SCE power.
As introduced, AB 140 would have allowed the water agency to use natural gas as well as renewable sources to generate more power, but that ran into opposition at the committee.
“What we are trying to do is diversify away from fossil fuels, and it seems to take us back in the other direction,” Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, said of the natural gas option.
Garcia agreed to amend her bill to drop natural gas. It was then approved unanimously and sent to the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee.
The goal is not to get into the retail power business, Luker emphasized.
“We’re not interested in any way in the retail power business,” he said. “That’s the last thing we want.”
He also said the agency doesn’t have a specific project ready to go but is looking for an opportunity.
“It is something we definitely want to go after,” Luker said.
Desert Water Agency now provides water service to Palm Springs, part of Cathedral City and unincorporated areas, he said.
Desert Sun Sacramento Bureau
11 April 2007
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