Boats on San Vicente Reservoir

Opinion: San Vicente hydroelectric project a smart way to make power grid more resilient

It will provide electricity at night after solar power goes slack

By The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board

July 29, 2021 4:56 PM PT

The editorial board operates independently from the U-T newsroom but holds itself to similar ethical standards. We base our editorials and endorsements on reporting, interviews and rigorous debate, and strive for accuracy, fairness and civility in our section. Disagree? Let us know.

The state government’s decision to provide $18 million to fund preliminary work on state and federal approvals for the long-anticipated San Vicente Energy Storage Facility — advocated by the San Diego County Water Authority and the city of San Diego — makes the $1.5 billion project significantly more likely to come to pass. The great news is that the “pumped hydro” facility at the San Vicente Reservoir near Lakeside will strongly shore up available energy supplies at night after solar power is no longer directly available.

The project will require the building of another, much smaller reservoir at a higher elevation than San Vicente. During the day, when energy supplies are plentiful, water will be pumped to the higher reservoir. At night, when needed, that water can be released into the lower reservoir, generating hydroelectric power. The project will generate enough electricity for 135,000 households and make it easier for the region to keep the lights on as it pursues a statewide goal of ending all use of energy sources that generate greenhouse gases by 2045.

The $1.5 billion price tag may seem daunting. But the Water Authority says the $18 million in state funds is the only money that will be taken from taxpayers. The authority and the city will begin looking for a private developer to partner with on the project next month. That developer will fund the project and then recoup its investment on the back end after the facility begins generating power. Based on what’s known, this seems like a welcome example of thoughtful government in action.