Girish Balachandran 2017-12-16 01:59:24
Riverside, California, is a historic, 90 square-mile city of 330,000, located about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. Founded in 1870, it was named for its location beside the Santa Ana River. Riverside Public Utilities (RPU) was established in 1895 as the city’s municipal utility. RPU serves electricity to approximately 105,000 customers and water to approximately 65,000 customers. RPU is the 29th largest electric utility among 2,000 electric public power entities across the U.S. While many utilities’ service delivery infrastructure is trapped in 1950s America, Riverside Public Utilities has taken a fast-follower approach to meeting its customers’ service expectations. A future-focused utility Riverside’s water delivery system and electric grid are the essential services that we all rely upon. Riverside’s City Council and Board of Public Utilities (an appointed community board that oversees many of RPU’s initiatives) recently developed a long-range plan called Utility 2.0, which charts out the modernization of its electric and water infrastructure to meet customers’ evolving needs and preferences. Utility 2.0 sets a direction for the next 10 years that concentrates on accelerating infrastructure replacement and implementing new technology projects. Pipes, poles and wires installed during a post-World War II boom are deteriorating, and will not meet the community’s expectations for reliability. Disruptive technology growth promises to fuel further industry changes. Two-way grids that provide an interconnection to receive unused power back from customers will become more common. As California recovers from the worst drought in more than a hundred years, the need to invest in water efficiency and recycled water increases. Because of the process that created Utility 2.0, Riverside will be prepared to manage disruptive changes and adapt to meet its customers’ expectations. A smart utility in a smart city RPU understands its role as a municipally owned utility — to add value as a locally controlled entity. First, customers require reliable water and electric service. It’s there when they turn on their faucet or when they flip the switch. However, once this essential need is met, the desire for green power, access to real-time information, and the ability to interact with the utility via mobile devices adds another layer of service expectations. As RPU incorporates smart city concepts into its initiatives, it is working closely with other city departments, including public works, community development, police and fire, educational institutions and nonprofits. Embracing technology Since technology is a strategic asset for the utility and the community, RPU created the operational technology division, which places all technology projects under one umbrella. Cybersecurity is at the forefront of the new division, which is delivering transparency, efficiency and safety. Advanced analytics, real-time data visualization and advanced metering infrastructure, or AMI, are smart technologies Riverside is employing. In addition, RPU is planning to build a Geospatial Information System (GIS) Center that will coordinate the GIS needs of the entire city. RPU also houses the city’s 311 Call Center, which serves as a virtual one-stop shop for more than 20 city services, from reporting graffiti and electrical outages, to requesting a trash pickup. RPU owns 122 miles of fiber optic cable, which translates into 9,691 strand-miles of fiber optics. The use of excess fiber optic cable (or dark fiber) as a monetized asset is a viable business model that contributes to economic development. RPU operates an advanced, broadband, fiber-optic, cable-based network to communicate between its substations and control centers for electric grid operations. The fiber that is not connected to electronic switches will be offered through direct providers, public-private partnerships and other means. Utilizing dark fiber infrastructure will support LED street lighting applications and future 5G/small cell technologies to improve resident and business connectivity. Earlier this year, Riverside’s City Council authorized RPU to move forward with expanding its fiber network and obtain new customers. Advances in lighting More than 33,000 streetlights and luminaires shine on Riverside’s roadways. Over the next three years, these lights will be converted to LEDs with smart sensors. The long-term benefit of having thousands of sensors throughout the city is to enable smart city applications and provide big data. These sensors can detect sound, track heat, gauge wind, vary light output to match activities and monitor air quality. To roll out this project, RPU is working with the Riverside Police Department to identify streets and neighborhoods as a virtual one-stop shop for more than to provide nighttime visibility to help decrease crime. The additional benefits are energy savings and adherence to the community’s Dark Skies ordinance, which requires that all outdoor lighting face downward to the ground. The ordinance is an effort to reduce lighting pollution. Once this project is completed in 2019, more than 10 million kWh will be saved. That is enough to power over 1,400 homes and reduce greenhouse emissions by over 3,200 tons, which is equivalent to taking 690 vehicles off the road. Sustaining and conserving Riverside is a sustainability leader known as a California Emerald City. Its Green Action Plan sets goals and expectations on providing low-cost energy, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing environmental impacts. RPU, the city, the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce and community leaders set these expectations. RPU launched the Green Business Program where it can assist in helping businesses modify their internal processes to lower energy costs, ensure green manufacturing best practices and reduce waste. With over 144 MW of renewable energy produced, 7.5 MW of which are located within the city, Riverside Public Utilities is embracing the use of more sustainable energy. In 2017, RPU expects to generate 35 percent of its power from renewable resources. There are currently 2,746 active rooftop solar projects in Riverside. Built on a former landfill site, the 7.5 MW Tequesquite Solar Farm demonstrates an innovative approach to leveraging local land resources for renewable power. Reclaimed water is used to cool the 200 MW Riverside Energy Resource Center, a zero-discharge facility. About a decade ago, RPU invested in a state-of-the-art water treatment plant that allowed it to become water independent and resilient from the impact of prolonged droughts. Earlier this year, RPU initiated a $20 million recycled water program that will install more than 26,000 feet of “purple pipe.” This will offset potable water use by supplying irrigation with recycled water, and freeing up drinking water supplies that otherwise would be used for landscaping. Downtown Riverside will have 12 Tesla Inc. supercharging stations. This public-private partnership, located at RPU‘s headquarters, is one prong of a multifaceted strategy to support vehicle electrification in the community. The strategy integrates advanced technology, infrastructure, rates and consumer incentives. Sophisticated GIS applications, which support smart parking, will link to transit schedules and encourage the next generation of drivers to work, live and play in the downtown core. Integrating distributed generation and energy storage Energy delivery is no longer a one-way street. Two-way interconnections provide power to customers and receive unused power from customer generation back to the utility. Riverside is the only publicly owned utility in the country to receive a grant partnership opportunity from the U.S. Department of Energy to work with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, UC Berkeley, Power Standards Lab, and California Institute for Energy and Environment to mitigate the impact of distributed generation by using microsynchrophasors. The partnership aims to break down barriers to photovoltaic (PV) integration. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems are not designed to detect transient voltage drops at PV sites, which reduce the ability to detect and prevent an outage. Microsynchrophasors work 400 times faster to detect disturbances caused by distributed energy resources. These micro-synchrophasors validate overloaded distribution equipment, reverse power flows and voltage rise, and misoperations that shorten equipment life and increase maintenance. The lessons learned will support the expansion of highpenetration PV, energy storage options, such as Ice Energy’s thermal energy systems, and the potential integration of micro-grids, such as those installed at the University of California Riverside campus (RPU‘s largest customer). By integrating advanced technologies, customers will experience fewer power disruptions and the system will be able to handle two-way power flow. Creating value Through an engagement with the University of California Riverside‘s economic forecasting center, RPU determined that the local impact of its operations is nearly $480 million annually, including the support of about 3,500 jobs within Riverside and San Bernardino counties. In the face of California’s recent drought, RPU was able to maintain its water independence and create an historic water wheeling deal with a neighboring water utility. It leases unused pipeline capacity and sells excess water that would otherwise be lost, bringing $100 million to RPU over the next 20 years. The city adopted Riverside 2.1, a strategic plan implementing the city council’s strategic priorities and making it easier to do business in Riverside. A “one stop shop” brings together on one floor all city departments that are part of the development process, with exclusive use of an express elevator, cell phone charging stations, and a concierge system that helps customers obtain permits and approvals faster than ever. The one stop shop is a marked difference from the traditional way of doing business in local government. Riverside Public Utilities, along with its Utility 2.0 plan, continues to add value by streamlining the development process so that new businesses can meet with electric and water experts for an enhanced customer service experience. Riverside is a catalyst for innovation and is focused on intelligent growth. With safe and reliable water and power, competitive rates, municipal ownership and sound fiscal management, RPU provides dependable services to its customers and promotes Riverside as a location of choice. RPU has been part of the community for more than 100 years and it is well positioned for another century of prosperity. GIRISH BALACHANDRAN is general manager of Riverside Public Utilities and has served California municipal utilities for 28 years, including the cities of Alameda, Palo Alto and Pasadena. Girish has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from University of California, Los Angeles.
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