As storm season arrives, I found an interesting figure which comes from Power magazine and shows all the power stations that are at risk from storms. That’s a lot of power. The question is how do we address this? Water and wastewater utilities are actively looking for means to reduce power costs. Pumping water can account for 80-90 percent of total power consumption, especially with high service pumps.
Water and wastewater power plants tend to have backup power. Or at least we hope they do. In Florida we created FLAWarn after the hurricanes in 2005. The concept was to put utilities together to allow them to share generators and other assets in case of emergency. Many utilities here have generators at pump stations, tanks and on trailers. The goal is to insure service can be provided regardless of the damage. And that did come in handy after Wilma in 2006. FLAWarn serves as a model for other states.
There are also renewable power which some utilities have invested in. Renewable power on plant sites is a means to address the potential grid interruptions. This solution, however, may not be embraced by power utilities due to the potential revenue reduction. As the water facility takes on on-site generation, the utility load profile may shift significantly placing them in under a different rate structure which may greatly reduce the benefit to the utility. One problem.
Also there are some at work to derail green power solutions, trying to reduce the attractiveness and subsidies on renewable power. Interesting that many power providers are not in that group because all power in the US is subsidized – oil, gas and renewables. The oil and gas sector is much larger and while many renewable power solutions are used by large power entities. In some states, the states have taken action to encourage these investments because of the potential benefits to the population. Local entities have gotten involved also. It just makes sense if you are in the right region and the price/risk ratio is right. A number of water and sewer utilities have pursued this option successfully. That will help as well during outages.
Now if we can keep the trees from being planted above the pipelines ….