Burbank Water and Power uses water for power

California's Burbank Water and Power (BWP) has provided water and electricity to the city's citizens and businesses since 1913. 

Sometimes, however, having responsibility for both water and power provides the community with unique advantages. In 2002, BWP installed two hydrogenerators at its Valley Pumping Plant. 

“We receive imported water from the Metropolitan Water District, which is pumped in over a mountain,” says Michael Thompson, a principal civil engineer at BWP. “We take advantage of the physics by breaking the extra head to generate electrical power before we pump the water further on through the distribution system.” 

The high-pressure water is used to power two turbine generators, producing enough renewable electricity to run up to 200 homes. 

That same year, BWP also inaugurated an industry-first program for reclaimed water by installing a reclaimed water treatment system for its on-site power plants. The system produces ultra pure water, displacing the need for any potable water to be used in BWP’s power plants. 

In 2005, BWP also switched on its Magnolia Power Project, a high-efficiency, combined-cycle plant located on three acres of the utility’s generating station complex. 

“As a utility working with other municipalities, we were able to leverage that experience to work with five other municipality shareholders — Anaheim, Glendale, Pasadena, Cerritos and Colton — to lobby to build that plant,” says Joe Flores, marketing associate and conservation manager at BWP. 

However, BWP’s water operations also proved invaluable when the utility wanted to expedite the California Energy Commission licensing process by sidestepping the need for a water discharge permit. 

“We were able to propose a design in which the power plant’s reclaimed cooling water system operates on a zero liquid discharge option,” Flores says. 

BWP selected a high-efficiency reverse osmosis process to reclaim the graywater produced by the plant’s cooling tower. The utility also increased its own reclaimed water sales by supplying water for the plant’s steam cycle, purifying it to less than 0.042 ppm total dissolved solids. 

The Magnolia plant was built over a 30-month period, including the installation of a combustion turbine generator, a heat recovery steam generator, a steam turbine generator, cooling towers and the zero liquid discharge system. The plant is about twice as efficient as the two older power generating units it replaced and also produces 90 percent fewer emissions. 

“The project not only improved the sustainability of our water supply, it also increased the regional reliability of our power supply by providing local power that isn’t dependent on long-distance transmission lines,” Flores says. 

For a full profile on Burbank Water and Power, check out www.mswmag.com/editorial/2013/04/foresight_is_20_20.


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