A California District Combines Energy Savings With Improved Performance

A California district’s $4 million upgrade project combines long-term, guaranteed energy savings with improved operational performance and flexibility.
A California District Combines Energy Savings With Improved Performance
To make the best use of an existing pipeline and site space, the facility team installed a new split-case pump and motor (Nidec Motor Corp.), designed to run 10 hours per day during the summer.

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The East Valley Water District can count on one thing for the next 10 years: significant guaranteed savings through an energy performance contract.

“One of the major costs we have to manage is electricity,” says John Mura, general manager and CEO of the district, in Highland, Calif. The performance contract with Honeywell, signed in February 2014, will help the district control its energy budget and improve performance. “We were able to do $4 million in energy-efficiency projects that result in $523,000 a year in guaranteed savings,” says Mura. “The bigger benefit for us is the operational flexibility we were looking for.”

East Valley provides water and sewer service to about 95,000 people in Highland, San Bernardino and nearby rural areas. As the district has grown since 1954, leadership made many decisions based solely on serving areas as they developed.

“We had some major system constraints that prevented us from doing things in the most efficient and reliable ways,” says Mura. “This really started out as a way to optimize our system and then morphed into both: We can optimize and have the benefits of efficiency and operational control, while also saving significantly on electrical costs. In less than a year from conception, we’ve completed the projects and are seeing the savings. The operators have controls we didn’t have in the past to better serve our community.”

Limited sources

East Valley has three sources of water. About 83 percent comes from groundwater and the rest from the Santa Anna River (15 percent) or from imports through the California State Water Project (2 percent).

“All of our groundwater production is on the west side of our service territory, which is at the lowest elevation,” says Mura. “Most of our new home development is on the east side at a higher elevation. Trying to deliver 85 percent of your water across a 17-mile district and up 600 to 800 feet becomes expensive.”

Three pressure-reducing valves (Cla-Val) gave the district more options for deploying water sources to different geographic regions to reduce pumping costs. “It also provided us with more detailed information on what specific wells we can deploy based on demand and bring them into the system in a way that is much more efficient,” says Mura.

The SCADA system (Rockwell Automation) helps by providing real-time data about demand, supply and delivery options. Automation of that process limited operators’ manual actions while keeping the system ahead of demand fluctuations. “Water is not a given out here, and you really have to think ahead,” Mura says. “We continue to grow as a state and a region, and they’re not making any new water. We have to use what we have in a lot smarter ways, so it’s a challenge for us.”

Automated demand response

Three of the water district’s 17 active groundwater wells were outfitted with high-efficiency, soft-start, single-speed motors and pumps, as were six booster stations. Models include Simflo, Flowserve and U.S. Motors. This along with the SCADA controls has reduced energy for pumping. Outdated switches and breakers were also replaced to improve efficiency.

“Our pumping strategy has totally changed to follow the time-of-use electric rate schedules,” notes Mike Maestas, assistant general manager. “We followed them the best we could in the past. Now with the automation and the ability to flow water into different zones we’ll be able to take full advantage of time-of-use rates.” The project reduced the district’s electrical usage by about 730,000 kWh in the first year alone.

Honeywell also helped East Valley join Southern California Edison’s Demand Response Programs in which the district makes money by agreeing to shed load during times of high demand on the utility grid.

Honeywell installed smart remote terminal units with programmable logic controllers. The utility provided $50,000 to install the necessary equipment. “With some of our 16 sites, we can go in and manually shed load and get a certain amount of money,” says Maestas. “The rest of our sites are included in an automated Demand Response Program in which Southern California Edison can shed the load automatically.”

The SCADA system display shows all the locations, and district personnel can prevent automatic load shedding if needed, such as if a certain well is needed to meet water demand. While that would reduce the incentive payment, there is no penalty for opting out of load shedding when requested.

Learning opportunity

The automated Demand Response Program actually led to the broader efficiency project. While seeking grant money and other funding for the SCADA, the district staff found that vendors offered much more.

“You hope and believe you are operating in the most efficient way,” says Maestas. “There were things that came out of this project where we were able to move up some of our capital improvements that we knew had to be done, and we realized the savings much sooner. We’re talking $4 million worth of projects, and it would have taken some time to put all that together.”

Mike Henderson, production superintendent, says the work has helped the team understand the system better. “We learned the weak spots, the inefficient points of pumping the different wells and the time-of-use electrical rates, so we can do a better job of that,” he says. “We’ve learned which wells are most efficient and are trying to use them more frequently.”

Because of the uniqueness of this project in the municipal water sector, Honeywell will follow the project closely, according to Kelly Malloy, public affairs and conservation manager for East Valley. “They will document results and post information online as we go along so that people interested in implementing the same kinds of efficiencies can see how it’s working out.”   


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