Innovative microgrid protects Rialto’s wastewater plant and the environment

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The microgrid is a partnership between the city, Rialto Water Services and Veolia North America, with operates the wastewater plant.
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Rialto once again is at the forefront of innovative solutions to the environmental challenges that confront cities everywhere, this time with a unique combination of solar, biogas and battery storage to help power the city’s wastewater plant.

The ambitious project, one of the first of its kind in California, will create a microgrid that will provide electricity to the wastewater facility, and bring greater energy independence, efficiency and resilience to the city.

Notably, the microgrid system will be less vulnerable to power outages that could cause the plant to shut down and lead to potential wastewater spills into nearby waterways. The City Council recently approved the project’s second phase, which is to design the microgrid with greater environmental sustainability in mind.

“As California and the rest of the country contend with a growing number of natural disasters linked to climate change — including widespread power outages and brownouts caused by heatwaves and wildfires — the resilience offered by a microgrid power source is more important than ever,” said Mayor Deborah Robertson. “We recognize that the time has come to invest and think boldly and creatively in protecting our resources. This project represents a great step forward in the way municipalities like ours can take positive steps toward a more green future.”

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The microgrid is a partnership between the city, Rialto Water Services and Veolia North America, with operates the wastewater plant. The project is expected to cost about $8 million once completed in 2024, with no funding coming from increased taxes. Instead, costs are being covered under a novel public-private partnership the city entered into with Rialto Waters Services and Veolia in 2012, which included raising significant capital from private equity partners and the capital finance markets.

Mayor Pro Tem Ed Scott noted that once the microgrid is in place, the plant will be less vulnerable to power outages that could endanger a nearby environmentally sensitive waterway. That waterway supports a population of endangered Santa Ana suckerfish.

“We know there is a great deal of concern about the endangered species which rely on our local resources,” Scott said. “We are proud to partner with government and grassroots-level environmental groups to make the survival of the suckerfish and other species more secure.”

Said Brian Clarke, president and CEO of Veolia North America, “I commend everyone involved for their commitment to making this vision a reality for the people of Rialto and the community’s natural resources. It’s this kind of forward-thinking that is putting Rialto in a position to meet the challenges that we all see coming down the road in the years ahead, both environmentally and economically.”

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