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Politics

San Diego Explores Possibility Of Hydroelectric Power Plant

The San Diego County Water Authority has been upgrading its existing water storage facilities in an effort to decrease reliance on the Metropolitan Water Authority. This photo shows construction at the San Vicente Dam to remove the right crest of the dam to increase the size of the reservoir, November 2009.
San Diego County Water Authority
The San Diego County Water Authority has been upgrading its existing water storage facilities in an effort to decrease reliance on the Metropolitan Water Authority. This photo shows construction at the San Vicente Dam to remove the right crest of the dam to increase the size of the reservoir, November 2009.

The city of San Diego and San Diego County Water Authority are embarking on a market analysis on the potential of building a hydroelectric power plant in the San Vicente Reservoir, a city official said Wednesday.

The project, which could cost around $1 billion, is nowhere close to being built, as the study could take 18 months to two years to conduct, Robert Mulvey of the city's Public Utilities Department told the City Council's Environment Committee.

Called the "San Vicente Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Project," the plan could result in a 500-megawatt power plant, generating enough electricity to equal the local share of energy that was received from the now-closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

City and Water Authority officials also say the power would generate enough revenue to offset the increasing cost of water in the drought-stricken region. The project would require construction of an upper reservoir that would pour into the existing reservoir.

Such a plant could also help San Diego reach the state's — and its own — goals for the use of renewable energy. A plan to address climate change that's being developed by the city could set a target of the year 2035 for using renewable energy sources — like solar and wind power — for all of the city's power.

Mulvey told the committee members to think of the facility as "a large battery" that could smooth the variations of other renewable forms of energy.

The Water Authority last year completed a project that raised the San Vicente Dam by 117 feet in order to create more storage space. It could take four more years to reach the new capacity, depending on rainfall.

The agency also operates a 40-megawatt hydroelectric plant at Lake Hodges.

The presentation was informational only, so the committee members took no action.

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