The District’s Net Zero Initiative

Energy might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to water, but the need to pump, convey and treat the water delivered to your home means water and energy are forever intertwined.

Based on a variety of factors – like the distance water has to travel, the terrain it must traverse, and treatment technology used to make it safe to drink – the carbon footprint of each water source can vary dramatically.

Many of the District’s operational changes needed during drought actually require increased energy use.  Groundwater requires more energy to pump and deliver throughout the system than water from Lake Cachuma, which is delivered via an innovative and extraordinarily energy efficient gravity-fed system.

How the District balances increasing energy use with enhanced water reliability continues to present challenges amid rising energy costs.  This water-energy nexus is a key driver of the District’s new Net Zero Initiative. The District is exploring the feasibility of a system-wide renewable energy project to install solar energy systems throughout the District’s facilities.  These projects would aim to generate enough clean power to offset the District’s average annual electricity use.

To achieve a net-zero balance, the District needs at least 2 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year requiring approximately 4,000 solar panels.  The District has completed the initial feasibility studies and issued a Request for Proposals to select a firm to design, construct, maintain and finance such a system through a Power Purchase Agreement.

The Net Zero Initiative builds on existing District solar and renewable projects.  These include: A water turbine in the distribution system at Garrett Van Horne Reservoir that generates 240,000 kilowatt hours per year; a small solar array at San Marcos Reservoir to power remote monitoring equipment; and a large solar array at San Ricardo Well to power both onsite monitoring and groundwater treatment systems.

The District was recently awarded a state grant to assist with the costs of installing renewable solar and battery backup power systems at six of its reservoirs.  This sustainable alternative to diesel generators will ensure continued facility operations during emergencies and public safety power shutoff events.  Once completed, District operators will no longer have to fuel, deliver, and deploy diesel generators to remote reservoir sites during wildfires and other emergencies.

The District is also partnering with Tesla to secure a grant to install battery backup power facilities at the Corona Del Mar Water Treatment Plant.  The grant, valued at up to $750,000, would provide for a Tesla Powerpack to keep the District’s treatment plant in service during power outages and to reduce costs when peak-use rates are in effect. This innovative project would reduce the plant’s energy bills by an estimated 34%, while bringing the District a step closer to its sustainability goals.

Reducing reliance on traditional non-renewable energy will protect against future energy price increases, reduce energy costs, improve system reliability and energy security, and contribute to achieving California’s targeted goal of 100% zero-emission energy by year 2045.

As we look to the future, our commitment to sustainability as well as our continued investment in maintaining the District’s system will ensure ongoing service reliability for the nearly 87,000 residents of the Goleta Valley.