You may have heard that both APS and SRP have asked customers to reduce their electricity usage during this unprecedented heat wave to ensure they can meet the needs of all of their customer. And if you think turning down your thermostat when it’s 117 degrees outside is tough, imagine reducing the load of the largest electricity user of all city departments combined – Scottsdale Water.
Water treatment, delivery and collection is an extremely energy-intensive industry. Water is heavy, weighing about 8.3 pounds per gallon. During the summer months, Scottsdale Water treats and delivers upwards of 120 million gallons of drinking water and recycled irrigation water daily. Moving that much water requires an extraordinary amount of energy. (Imagine carrying ONE gallon of water 15 miles or so…then doing it 120 million times a day. Oh…and you also have to bring the used water back to the wastewater treatment plants!)
Scottsdale Water, though, participates in a critical program that allows APS to help stabilize its power distribution system in times of high demand and provide assistance to other power providers including SRP and even California providers. This program, APS Peak Solutions for Business, asks large demand users, like Scottsdale Water, to reduce its power demand for short periods (2-6 hours) at peak usage times to help relieve the power system’s overall demand. In return, Scottsdale Water receives a rebate check.
Scottsdale is the largest municipal contributor in the state and, in ten years in the program, Scottsdale Water had reduced our energy usage at the Water Campus by more than 1,480,000 kilowatt hours – that’s the equivalent of the annual energy usage of 135 homes – and received rebates in excess of $1 million.
While Scottsdale Water has participated in Peak Solutions load-reduction exercises annually for over a decade, Scottsdale has only been asked once – in 10 years – to participate in an actual emergency load-reduction event. This year, with the unprecedented excessive heat not only here in Arizona, but in California, which also receives electricity from APS, Scottsdale Water has already participated in one test and four actual events and expects to participate in at least one more event in the coming weeks.
Decreasing energy use during peak demand times is a particularly tricky balancing act for a water utility since peak energy demand comes on the hottest, driest summer days – at the same time as peak water demand. To meet electricity load reduction during peak demand events, Scottsdale Water must take several systems offline temporarily, relying on reserve water stored in reservoirs, alternative energy sources and minimized building cooling systems.
These operational adjustments are only sustainable for a few hours a day, a few days a year, and require extensive planning, coordination and resiliency by Scottsdale Water staff, especially considering they are also largely working outside in this extreme heat. Their often-unheralded efforts not only epitomize Scottsdale Water’s commitment to environmental and financial stewardship, but are a large part of the reason APS has been able to meet the needs of all of their customers this summer.
Thank you to everyone at Scottsdale Water for not only making sure we have exceptional water and sewer service every day, but for ¬– quite literally – helping keep the lights on.