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San Diego County Gains New Source Of Electricity

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Aired 9/14/11

A new hydroelectric project is now generating another source of electricity for residents of San Diego County.

The first of two 28,000-horsepower pump turbines at the San Diego County Water Authority's Lake Hodges Pump Storage Project started operation Wednesday.

When a second turbine comes on line in early 2012, the project will generate enough power for 26,000 homes.

San Diego Water Authority Deputy General Manager Frank Belock said the $196-million project connects the City of San Diego's Lake Hodges to the Water Authority's Olivenhain Reservoir.

"The large majority of the water in Lake Hodges is not used," said Belock. "The Santa Fe Irrigation District uses a small portion, but typically most of the water in the lake evaporates. What the project does in a water sense is Lake Hodges is now connected to the Olivenhain Resevoir which is connected to our aqueduct, which means we can draw water out of it."

He said the Lake Hodges project is a key part of the Water Authority's $1.5-billion Emergency Storage Project, a system of reservoirs, pipelines and pumping stations designed to ensure that up to a six-month supply of locally stored water will be available for the San Diego region if a disaster or other event interrupts imported water deliveries.

Belock said the water authority is selling the power to San Diego Gas and Electric. He says revenues from the project's operation will offset Water Authority costs.

He says the facility is now available to help meet the region's water demands, by providing 20,000 acre-feet of emergency water storage.

"It is green," said Belock. "There is nothing wasted. And the next day we'll just pump the same water back up to the reservoir when electricity is cheap. And then, pull it back down when it is needed on the grid."

He said at a time when water users are worried about rates increases, the project will help a bit in "keeping them down."

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