LEAPS Project to Support Increased Renewable Energy in Southern California

Editor’s note; This story is the first in an ongoing series exploring the proposed Lake Elsinore Advanced Pump Storage, or LEAPS, project. In this article, Valley News will explain the project and how it could potentially benefit the community of Lake Elsinore and the city’s namesake lake.

Lake Elsinore could soon be the home to a unique project designed to support California’s transition to renewable electricity sources.

Lake Elsinore Advanced Pump Storage, or LEAPS as it is commonly referred to, is Nevada Hydro’s flagship project designed to respond to the growing need for reliable, renewable electricity. The project will also help meet the state of California’s emissions reductions programs signed into law by former Gov. Jerry Brown.

LEAPS is an energy generation and storage project designed to help stabilize electric infrastructure and maximize the use of all forms of renewable energy, according to LEAPS project Communications Advisor John Sparks.

“California has set renewable energy targets of 50 percent of total generation capacity by 2030 and 100 percent by 2045,” Sparks explained. “As a result, increased renewable electricity generation and storage capacity is needed more than ever. More storage options will optimize the contribution of renewable sources such as solar and wind energy. LEAPS is designed to help answer this challenge.”

Sparks said the hydro pump storage facility is designed to move water from Lake Elsinore to the new Decker Canyon reservoir, situated above the lake in the Cleveland National Forest. LEAPS, when completed, will leverage the “unique combination” of Lake Elsinore and nearby mountains along with proximity to large Southern California energy markets, such as the Riverside, San Diego and Los Angeles markets.

“It’s increased reliability,” he said. “It’s not just L.A. and San Diego, Riverside is a growing market. Reliability is going to get more important there.”

Sparks explained that the storage facility will have a generating capacity of up to 500 megawatt (one megawatt equals 1 million watts, or 1,000 kilowatts, and would power about 750 homes at one time), and that the storage will provide vital “load balancing” to the state’s electric system grid by generating energy “quickly” during times of high electricity demand, and “storing” unused energy during low demand times

Unlike solar or wind generated power projects, pumped storage can operate at any time of day.

“This means it is ready to be dispatched to consumers quickly by the California Independent System Operator, Sparks said. “This helps the CAISO manage fluctuating supply and demand on the Southern California electricity grid.”

In addition to being the most advanced, large-scale pumped hydro storage in the United States, LEAPS will help to bring money into the local economy.

“A project of this magnitude has direct and indirect impacts,” Sparks explained. “If licensed, there would be significant construction jobs, indirect employment in the hospitality and service sector and payments of municipal and state taxes and fees.”

While some residents are opposed to the project and fear it will reduce lake levels, Sparks said the project will create opportunities for agencies and citizens working to restore the lake.

“We will be importing 15,000 acre-feet of high quality water which will have an immediate impact on water quality,” he said. “In addition, the project will circulate lake water and offer the opportunity to increase oxygen levels to reduce fish kills.”

In November, Valley News reported that Nevada Hydro and the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District reached a settlement in which the EVMWD will supply the water required to fuel LEAPS, but should not be considered a partner in the project. Settlement details are provided on the EVMWD website at http://www.evmwd.com.

“We are a hydro project and will import new water for our operations. This agreement will import about 3 feet of good quality water to the lake and help local authorities address water levels and quality,” Sparks said. “It’s a win-win.”

For more information on the Nevada Hydro’s LEAPS project, visit their website at http://leapshydro.com.

Kim Harris can be reached by email at valleyeditor@reedermedia.com.


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