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SSJID may build power plant on canal drop

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POSTED June 1, 2013 2:22 a.m.

A power plant capable of providing enough electricity to supply 280 homes a day could be built among the almond orchards south of Escalon.

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District board is having NLine Energy analyze water flow and the potential to generate power at a drop on the main irrigation canal south of Escalon and north of River Road.

Preliminary indications are it would take 14 years for the district to recoup spending $1.7 million to put a power generating plant in place. The district would more than likely pay for  the project from undistributed reserves and not create debt.

It would generate a net cash flow of $95,000 to $107,000 in power sales in the initial year.

SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields said the board “doesn’t believe it makes any sense to let energy from water go to waste.”

Even so, the board wants a detailed analysis to make sure it is a cost effective way to invest money from the Tri-Dam Project receipts derived from wholesale power sales.

The Tri-Dam receipts have made it possible for the district to fund an aggressive water conservation program for farmers, put in a state-of-the-art forced irrigation water deliver system replacing open canals south of Manteca and west of Ripon, and perform nearly eight years of capital improvements to the irrigation system in  three years,

The Tri-Dam receipts are also a key component of the district’s plan to reduce retail power rates 15 percent in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon.

If the numbers work out and the district proceeds with the small-scale power generation plant that would produce 280 kilowatts, the board may consider a second power generation plant at another Escalon location where the canal has a big enough of a drop to be harnessed for power generation.

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