The Power of Water: The Tri-Dam Project
The Tri-Dam Project is a partnership between the Oakdale Irrigation District and the South San Joaquin Irrigation District. Together, they developed, operate and maintain the Beardsley, Donnells and Tulloch projects, including the dams, tunnels, penstocks, powerhouses, communication systems and general office. These facilities are located on the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River in Tuolumne County, California.
Originally the districts were interested in water development projects and continue to be responsible for providing irrigation water to their service territories in the greater Oakdale and South San Joaquin areas. The Beardsley, Donnells and Tulloch facilities provide the two districts with storage reservoirs necessary to meet this water obligation. The historical cost to add electric generating facilities to the water storage projects was relatively minor.
The "Upper Works" include Donnells and Beardsley dams, reservoirs and power houses. The "Lower Works" refer to the Tulloch development near Knight's Ferry, reaching into both Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties.
The Tri-Dam Project is governed by a joint board of directors composed of the five member boards of the two districts. The day to day activities of the Tri-Dam Project are managed by a general manager who reports to the board. The administrative offices of Tri-Dam are located in Strawberry, California.
Robert O. Schulz Solar Farm
The solar energy experts at Denver-based Conergy Americas and the South San Joaquin Irrigation District joined together in 2009 to install Phase 2 of what is believed to be the world's first single-axis solar tracking system featuring thin-film photovoltaic cells. The 419-kilowatt system is the second phase of a 1.4 megawatt (MW) solar energy solution that is saving the irrigation district nearly $400,000 a year in utility costs for its Nick C. DeGroot Water Treatment Plant located just east of the solar farm. The installation has also allowed the district to reap state cash incentives and stabilize customer costs in the midst of a state-wide water crisis.
The project is also providing a unique cost-benefit analysis on how two distinct solar energy solutions—crystalline panels and thin-film—perform under a range of climatic conditions. The application of thin-film on a solar tracking system as a way to optimize energy output in perennially dusty or foggy areas is generating a great deal of excitement not only among those in areas with conditions similar to Stanislaus County (where the solar farm is located), but also among economic policymakers and environmental stewards in Washington, D.C.
Providing SSJID with additional ROSI (Return on Solar Investment) are the valuable side-by-side performance metrics the systems are enabling. Phase 1, built in 2008, features 6720 175-watt crystalline modules mounted on a single-axis solar tracking system. Tracking systems can optimize peak-time output by as much as 15% over similarly-sized fixed-mounted systems. They do this by incrementally adjusting panel angles to follow the trajectory of the sun. This project optimizes its solar tracking capabilities using software that originated from military tracking technologies.
The project's main goal is to stabilize electrical costs, which can spike substantially in summer months given local time of use metering. In addition to the project's annual electric bill savings, the solar energy systems provide the district with a hedge against rising electricity costs. Both projects are hooked into the state's electrical grid, which means the district is able to sell its surplus, peak-time energy back to the local utility.
Why SSJID's Effort to Provide Retail Electric Service Matters to You
South San Joaquin Irrigation District has been actively working for many years to replace PG&E as the electric utility for customers in Escalon, Manteca and Ripon and the surrounding areas. As part of the long process, SSJID was required to obtain approval from a San Joaquin County agency called the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo). After countless studies, reports and findings indicated that SSJID could successfully provide electric service, the LAFCo hearing held in late 2014 proved SSJID victorious when we were approved to become the electric provider for the district. PG&E immediately sued to have that decision overturned in San Joaquin County Superior Court and, so far, has lost at every turn.
The time involved in the process isn't what's most important, however. What's more important is why SSJID is going through the hard work and expense to become the electric provider for the homes, schools, businesses and city governments in South San Joaquin County. We're doing it because it will bring tremendous benefits to our area economy and to YOU, our district owners.
First, as a public non-profit agency, SSJID is committed to providing electric service at electric rates lower than PG&E's—substantially lower. If we're ultimately successful at this endeavor, it's estimated that our lower rates will save people in our area more than $12 million in year one alone. That's a significant economic shot in the arm for families, local businesses and the whole region that will continue year after year.
Second, SSJID will give area residents local control and a voice in how their electric service is provided and priced. Our board members live and work in the district and are elected by district residents. They are dedicated to running SSJID, which has been in business since 1909, in a safe, honest, customer-focused and cost-efficient manner. They hold open public meetings on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at an office located centrally in Manteca. As a customer of PG&E, a for-profit, investor-owned utility, you'd have a hard time tracking down their CEO or a board member, and are not allowed to attend their private meetings held in San Francisco. At SSJID, you can find a board member doing business in your community, and you can stop by our office and speak directly to our general manager or any of our staff.
Finally, SSJID is committed to delivering more localized public benefits program spending and more emphasis on reliability with goals of maintaining existing and improving long-term reliability.
SSJID is continuing to invest in the necessary studies and financial feasibility reports to make sure that we will be able to deliver reliable electric service and at lower rates, and if we can't do what we wholeheartedly believe we can—and what the current studies say we can—then we will not pursue the plan any further. There are many reasons we are confident we can provide electric service and provide these increased benefits, but these are at the top of the list:
- We don't collect a profit from ratepayers to benefit shareholders like PG&E does.
- Our overhead is lower and we don't have to pay corporate income taxes.
- We can borrow money for major improvements at lower interest rates than PG&E.
SSJID is proud to serve the people in our district with high quality water for farmers and cities, and we believe bringing locally owned and operated electric service —is a great way to benefit everyone in our service area and a good reason to keep working hard to make our plan your reality.
SSJID Makes Formal Offer to Buy PG&E's Electric Distribution System in the District
On May 12, the South San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID) took the next step necessary to becoming the electric provider for current PG&E customers in Escalon, Manteca, Ripon, and the surrounding areas. That step: SSJID made a formal offer to buy PG&E's electric distribution system within the SSJID boundaries.
The offer came after SSJID commissioned two independent expert studies. First was an appraisal which valued PG&E's distribution system within SSJID's boundaries at $115,995,500, including severance and impairment costs, the amount of the offer made to PG&E. Second was a financial feasibility study which found that SSJID's plan to provide retail electric service with lower rates than PG&E's is financially feasible under a wide range of scenarios.
"Although PG&E has opposed SSJID's efforts to bring the benefits of public power to our local city governments, homes, schools and businesses of South San Joaquin throughout this long process, we continued to hold out hope they would come to the table and negotiate with us in good faith," said SSJID General Manager Peter Rietkerk. "Unfortunately that hasn't happened, and PG&E rejected our offer on June 3. On June 6, SSJID formally noticed PG&E of its intent to adopt a Resolution of Necessity."
The next steps available to the SSJID are largely legal in nature. On Tuesday, June 28, the SSJID Board of Directors held a public hearing to gather input as they considered whether or not to adopt a Resolution of Necessity (RON) and proceed with filing a condemnation lawsuit in court. The RON authorized the District to move forward with acquiring PG&E's distribution system that brings power to individual homes and businesses within our boundaries – including the distribution portions of two substations, transformers, poles, electric lines and meters— through eminent domain proceedings. In those legal proceedings, the court would decide if SSJID's ownership of the system would provide a greater public good than PG&E's, and if so, establish the amount SSJID would have to pay PG&E for its distribution assets within SSJID's service territory.
"It's important for the people in our district to know that at every stage of this process our staff and board are taking a fresh look at the issues," Rietkerk said. "We've decided to hold this hearing at the City of Ripon Council Chambers because it's larger than our boardroom and will accommodate more people if they want to attend and address the board. Our staff and consultants will present the updated financial feasibility study, and if the board believes moving forward remains in the district's best interest, they will authorize the court action. They will also have the option to defer a vote to consider additional information or postpone their decision. Or, they may decide not to move forward."
- South San Joaquin Irrigation District Retail Electric Financial Analysis
- Feasibility Review Presentation
- Staff Report - Resolution of Necessity Hearing For SSJID's Retail Electric Project -- Property Acquisition
- Resolution No. 16-05-E - Resolution of Necessity of South San Joaquin Irrigation District Determining That the Public Interest and Necessity Require the Acquisition of Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Electric Distribution System and Directing the Filing of Eminent Domain Proceedings