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San Vicente Energy Storage Facility

Project Background

San Vicente Energy Storage Facility

The San Vicente Energy Storage Facility is one of the most promising pumped energy storage solutions in California. The energy storage project is under consideration by a partnership of the San Diego County Water Authority and the City of San Diego. As proposed, the project could store 4,000 Megawatt-hours per day of energy (500 Megawatts of capacity for eight hours), which is enough energy to provide approximately 135,000 homes with power.

The potential project would create a small upper reservoir above the San Vicente Reservoir, along with a tunnel system and an underground powerhouse to connect the two reservoirs. The powerhouse is proposed to contain four reversible pump turbines. During off-peak periods – when power is inexpensive and renewable supplies from wind and solar facilities exceed demand – turbines will pump water to the upper reservoir where it will act as a battery of stored potential energy. During high energy use, the system will discharge energy as water from the upper reservoir flows downhill through the turbines. The exchange between the two reservoirs will not consume water and is closed-loop.

The reservoir is near major electricity transmission interconnection facilities, which will allow the project to play a central role in integrating solar and wind energy from across the Southwest for use in San Diego County.

In July 2021, San Vicente Energy Storage Facility received $18 million from the state budget, enough to advance the project through initial design, environmental reviews, and the federal licensing process. The City of San Diego and the Water Authority are currently negotiating a project development agreement with the BHE Kiewit Team to develop Phase 1 of the potential San Vicente Energy Storage Facility Project.

The BHE Kiewit Team includes BHE Renewables, LLC, and Kiewit Development Company. BHE Renewables, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy Company. The Water Authority Board of Directors also approved negotiating with Rye Development, LLC, if negotiations with the BHE Kiewit Team are not successful.

Additionally, the Water Authority’s Board approved a $4.6 million contract with AECOM Technical Services, Inc. to perform preliminary environmental work for the potential project, and a $1.6 million amendment to a professional services contract with Black & Veatch Corp. to support project development agreement negotiations, provide technical expertise for a California Independent System Operator interconnection application, perform preliminary design and engineering reviews, and assist with preparing a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license application.

The Board’s January 2022 actions followed the September 2021 issuance of a formal Request for Proposals seeking a full-service private partner capable of developing a large-scale pumped energy storage project planned jointly by the Water Authority and the City of San Diego.

California is a world leader in renewable energy

The state already sources nearly one-third of its power from renewables, mainly solar and wind. The target for clean energy in California is 100 percent by 2045 – and large-scale energy storage in the form of pumped energy storage will play a vital role in reaching that goal.

A major shift to renewables will require new kinds of investments, markets, and business practices. Electric grids need to be more flexible; new kinds of power supplies, including energy storage, will help deliver energy flexibility when needed; and new pricing systems are needed to send clear signals to developers and financial markets that these projects need to move forward.

Pumped energy storage projects are designed to store excess renewable energy from solar and wind during the day, and then discharge that energy when energy usage increases in the evening and renewable energy is not available.

Regional benefits include:

  • Generate additional revenue to offset water agency costs and help stabilize water rates
  • Provide an essential energy resource to enhance grid reliability to avoid power outages and rolling blackouts
  • Produce energy on demand, especially during high-energy use periods
  • Store surplus renewable wind and solar energy during low-energy use periods
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Planning and investing for large-scale energy projects like the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility takes time. It is important to begin undertaking the necessary steps now to ensure this potential project can help California realize a clean energy future.

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Project Status: Current

  • 2021: State of California invests $18 million to support project
  • 2023: Pre-construction Agreement signed with private developer
  • 2023-2026: State/federal regulatory and licensing review process
  • 2027: Potential start of construction