With energy needs rising and ever-growing requirements for cleaner energy sources, our company is dedicated to extracting renewable energy from our environment – cleanly, efficiently, and appropriately. These stories illustrate our creative solutions in various projects.
Story One – Camp Far West
Existing Dam for Rice Field Irrigation Plant
Camp Far West near Sheridan, California, began as an all-year recreational campground. It then became a rice-growing area that needed constant irrigation for its two or three crop harvests each year.
Water was collected during the winter in an earthen dam and stored through the dry California summer. Throughout the year, South Sutter Irrigation District would release the water into open canals for the rice crop, using a pressure-reducing valve until the water dropped to atmospheric pressure.
Because too fast a flow would flood the fields and kill the seedlings, pressure reduction was crucial. But it was also wasteful. Working with SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) and South Sutter Water Irrigation District and their consulting engineer PBQ, ORENCO converted the dam system by channeling the water through a turbine-generator, using the water’s momentum to create energy while slowing it down for irrigation.
Camp Far West produces 60 million kilowatt hours each year (peak capacity of 8500 kW). That’s clean, renewable energy for over 20,000 households in the Sacramento community. And the South Sutter Water District’s initial investment funding has been more than returned. Camp Far West represents the existing-dam type of site, the most common and profitable in the U.S.
Story Two – Mollejon Hydropower Project
Clean Local Power for Belize
Historically, the country of Belize had virtually no domestic power generation capability (except for small biomass-fired generation), making it dependent on purchasing its power from CFE in Mexico. Belize’s substantial hydropower resources had never been tapped. Working with Dominion Energy, ORENCO designed, engineered, procured and constructed the first major hydropower facility for Belize. This 28.8 MW project provided about 30% of the entire country’s power need at the time it was developed.
The project used an environmentally friendly design that rerouted a portion of the water from the Macal River for a short distance through a diversion tunnel and penstock, then through the power plant, and then back into the river. ORENCO also designed, engineered, procured and constructed the 50-mile transmission line to Belize City.
Story Three – Bailey Creek
On the River Plant
On the outskirts of the Mt. Shasta/Lassen area, the Bailey Creek plant in Redding, California, has been running for decades. In 1980 there were two creeks – Bailey and Bear – rushing over a drop of 150 feet. By diverting both creeks into one and running it through a turbine-generator, ORENCO recovered all the energy that until then had been lost year after year. ORENCO put in a small unit of 650 kilowatts that now yields them annual sales of $350,000.
The Bailey Creek hydropower station is relatively modest in size. But at an 85% water usage level (what we call "plant factor"), it produces enough electricity for over 3500 households in the Redding area.
Operating at the high plant factor of 85% (most other plants run at 50%) requires durable machines and accurate control equipment. ORENCO’s automatic system combinations with SCADA usages are specifically geared for high usage and profitable operations. The fully automatic Bailey Creek station has been trouble-free. And true to the ORENCO way, the area around Bailey Creek was landscaped to minimize noise and conspicuousness. Behind the scenes every day, the hydropower station channels water at 62 cubic feet per second, producing 5.2 million clean kilowatt hours per year.
Story Four – Fleming Hill
Energy Recovery Plant for Pressurized Water Pipeline to Water Treatment Plant
The water from our faucets comes a long way before being ready for our use. It rushes down from the mountain ranges into reservoirs and from there to water treatment plants to be prepared for drinking. At each juncture, there is a significant altitude drop, and the high pressure of the water must be reduced so that water treatment plant equipment is not damaged.
At Fleming Hill in Vallejo, California, ORENCO built a turbine-generator station at one of these junctures, where the water comes into the "master" reservoir before being distributed to other reservoirs and water treatment plants. Water coming in at 350 psi runs through a turbine-generator to produce electricity and is reduced to 50 psi.
The recovered energy is used in several ways. Fleming Hill produces some energy for the Vallejo area. It is also responsible for providing energy for Marine World, moderating the pool temperature of the whales. This type of plant is compact and highly efficient, and much needed in larger cities where demand for domestic and industrial water is high. The Fleming Hill plant operates at close to a 100% plant factor. It has been running ever since 1983, with a production level of about 2.5 million kilowatt hours each year.