Technology: Victor Valley, CA Conserves Water and Energy
Learn how Victor Valley uses cutting-edge technology to preserve delicate resources - an important advantage for the growing number of businesses that now call this region home.
Technological know-how and forward-thinking municipal leaders help make the Victor Valley a progressive place to live and do business. It all begins with a judicious use of resources, including those the region has in spades and those in shorter supply. One abundant resource is sunshine. Rainfall averages just six inches per year in the Victor Valley, and mountains shield it from the fog that characterizes much of coastal California. When San Jose-based Clean Focus was looking for a place to build a solar farm to supply the southern California energy grid, the solar energy supplier found a perfect location in the city of Adelanto.
“Purchasing the real estate was much more reasonable in this area than in Los Angeles,” says Stanley Chen, CEO of Clean Focus, which develops, finances, owns and operates commercial and utility solar projects throughout the United States.
Clean Focus chose a 20-acre site consisting of unused scrubland. The project took six months to build and debuted in January 2015. It generates 7,156,000 kW hours of clean electricity a year, enough to power 3,300 customers and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 4,934 tons. That reduction is equivalent of removing more than 1,040 passenger vehicles from the road. Local sentiment was positive toward the project, which took advantage of investments designed to spur job creation in areas marked by high unemployment, and locating in an incorporated city made for a fast, streamlined permit process.
The Victor Valley pays close attention to its most precious commodity: water. As other parts of the West have suffered during the droughts of the past few years, the Victor Valley region has maintained a plentiful water supply. Much of this is due to reserves built by the local water supplier, the Mojave Water Agency (MWA). The agency currently has sufficient water in reserve to last a minimum of three years – possibly more, depending on rainfall and snow conditions in the surrounding mountains.
“Every drop counts when you live in a region that receives less than six inches of rainfall a year,” says Beverly Lowry, president of the Mojave Water Agency. “Working with our cities, the county, water districts, water companies and our community, our agency has been strategically planning for drought conditions. As a result of this collaboration, the current drought didn’t take our region by surprise.”
Victor Valley gets most of its water from an underground aquifer that is fed by mountain runoff. MWA scientists use infrared cameras to continuously monitor almost 1,000 ground wells scattered throughout the agency’s service area. The award-winning Regional Recharge and Recovery Project (R3) replenishes local aquifers along the Mojave River. It also banks surplus water supplied by the state of California for use in drier years. The region also employs techniques such as water-wise landscaping, drip irrigation, low-flow toilets and appliances, and even turf removal. Through its federally funded Cash for Grass program, MWA pays residents and businesses to replace turf with more desert-friendly ground covers. The agency recently expanded the program to offer $1 per square foot for turf removed for commercial, industrial, institutional and residential projects larger than 200,000 square feet. MWA has removed more than 7.5 million feet of turf since the program’s launch in 2008. Local utilities such as Southwest Gas and Southern California Edison also provide incentives for energy efficiency through rebates for homeowners and commercial customers.
Completing the Cycle
This region puts heavy emphasis on wastewater reclamation. The Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority (VVWRA) treats five to seven million gallons of water each day at its main facility in Victorville. Two additional plants will yield more capacity once they are complete in 2017. Methane gas is a byproduct of wastewater treatment, and the VVWRA takes a variety of steps to concentrate it and store it for later use to power the Victorville plant.
“Ultimately, this facility will be entirely self-sustaining,” says David Wyllie, public information officer for the VVWRA. “We use a tremendous amount of electricity.”
For instance, high-powered fans are required to aerate water and remove about 90 percent of contaminants. Later, the water passes beneath high-powered ultraviolet lights, which render it free from impurities and safe for use. Once operational, the new Apple Valley and Hesperia plants will each provide 1 million gallons of clean, recycled water.
“Wastewater reclamation is important in any community,” Wyllie says. “But because we live in a desert, we all know that we must constantly look for new ways to conserve and reclaim water.”