News Feature | February 15, 2018

Water Utilities Try Tesla Batteries

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Water utilities in California are saving on their power bills by installing Tesla battery systems in their facilities.

High-capacity batteries are best known for powering electric vehicles. But they are also making an impact on the water industry, Water Deeply reported.

“In Southern California, a number of water utilities have begun to install large batteries alongside their pumping plants and water treatment facilities. The idea is to store energy in the batteries overnight, when energy is cheaper. Then during the daytime, when power is more expensive, a water agency can tap that battery power for its routine operations,” the report said.

“This saves water ratepayers money, because energy is often the most expensive component of treating and moving water. It also helps the regional electric grid meet demand during peak hours, because batteries effectively eliminate some of that demand,” the report said.

It’s a significant fraction of demand, given that water treatment and water heating account for a fifth of energy used in California, the report said, citing the California Energy Commission.

Irvine Ranch Water District in Orange County is among the utilities trying the battery approach. Water Deeply spoke to General Manager Paul Cook about the development.

“Our first priority is always to make sure we can pump water, treat sewage and do all these things we have to do. And I don’t want to put another layer of responsibility on the operators I have, who already have enough on their plates,” he said, noting that when software became available to ease the battery-based approach, that’s when he dove in.

“The missing piece that we could tell was the software that goes along with the batteries. It’s the software that can actually learn how your system is working,” he said.

Irvine’s project represents a “a new frontier in the energy-water nexus,” Water Deeply previously reported.

The backdrop is that water and energy are deeply intertwined.

“The interdependence between water and energy is called the energy-water nexus. And while the relationship can be mutually constraining, it also presents an opportunity to address both energy and water issues together, because conserving one leads to conservation of the other," Earth Magazine reported.