Monday, October 2, 2023

New California law could boost pumped storage project in San Vicente Reservoir

The California Assembly introduced a new law, AB 1373, aimed at promoting renewable energy sources in the state. This legislation includes a specific provision that would support the development of a pumped hydroelectric facility at the San Vicente Reservoir near Lakeside. The project aims to make the state a key buyer of renewable energy sources such as offshore wind energy and geothermal power plants.

The provision added to the bill would allow the state Department of Water Resources to receive funding for a pumped hydroelectric project not to exceed 500 megawatts that received state funding before January 1, 2023. This provision specifically relates to the Saint Vincent Project, supported by Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, who highlights the importance of investing in energy resilience and achieving climate goals in the face of the growing impacts of climate change.

AB 1373 has already passed the Assembly and is expected to be debated in the Senate soon. If approved and passed, the law would take effect immediately due to its emergency designation.

However, opponents of the bill raise concerns about the provision included in the law. The Mussey Grade Road Alliance, a Ramona-based conservation group, believes the pumped hydro facility would cause damage to the San Vicente Highlands Preserve and Boulder Oaks Preserve. They argue that there are other, cheaper energy storage technologies and raise concerns about consumers and taxpayers subsidizing the project.

The San Vicente Energy Storage Project is a joint initiative of the City of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority. The goal is to feed 500 megawatts and 4,000 megawatt hours of long-term stored energy into the California power grid. The project involves the construction of an upper reservoir connected to the existing San Vicente reservoir via a tunnel and an underground power plant. Water is pumped from the lower to upper reservoir during the day when electricity is cheaper, and released to generate electricity at night when solar energy production slows.

Passage of AB 1373 would not expedite environmental permitting or provide additional funding for the project. Instead, future owners/developers could recoup construction costs by selling the energy produced, providing a potential source of revenue over the life of the facility.

Pumped hydro projects like the San Vicente project have gained attention in California as the state has committed to sourcing 60% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% from carbon-free sources by 2045. Pumped hydropower allows the generation of excess renewable energy to be stored during the day and released during times of high demand, reducing the need for carbon-emitting sources.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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