Posted on July 30, 2012

PG&E’s Hydro System Provides Clean Power, Plenty of Places to Play

Editor’s Note: This week, Currents looks at some of the places in PG&E’s service area where camping, fishing, hiking and other outdoor activities can be enjoyed – public recreational facilities that are just some of the benefits of PG&E’s hydroelectric generation system and other operations.

By Tracy Correa

PG&E and RecreationPG&E has the one of nation’s largest hydroelectric generating systems. For customers, that means affordable, reliable and clean energy.

But for thousands of residents of Northern and Central California, it means prime spots for fishing, swimming and boating. Other PG&E lands are available for camping, hiking and a variety of outdoor activities.

“Much of the beauty of our region is open for use by PG&E customers,” said Peter Merck, generation supervisor in PG&E’s Power Generation Department.

Some spots have been popular for decades. Others remain hidden gems.

Many of these man-made reservoirs and recreational facilities exist as a direct result of PG&E’s hydroelectric power systems. (Read how PG&E’s hydroelectric department uses the Sierra snowpack to make energy.)

From popular Lake Britton in Shasta County to Wishon  and Courtright reservoirs in Fresno County, these reservoirs are part of the 98 that PG&E manages as part of its hydroelectric portfolio.

Bass Lake Kayak

Bodies of water such as Bass Lake are a needed part of PG&E’s hydroelectric system, but also offer plentiful recreation opportunities. (Photo by Matt Nauman.)

In some cases, PG&E manages recreational property and campgrounds at the hydroelectric locations. In others, the utility works jointly with the U.S. Forest Service or provides care under agreements with government entities such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

During peak season summer months, these sites enjoy some of their greatest popularity as families come out to camp, fish, hike or boat on or near the shorelines of some of these scenic properties.

Take for example, the popular Bass Lake and resort area in Madera County just south of Yosemite National Park. The reservoir was formed by construction of Crane Valley Dam, and its associated five powerhouses supply hydroelectric power to PG&E customers. PG&E is responsible for the reservoir and dam – currently undergoing a seismic retrofit – and contributes to the renovation and maintenance of recreational facilities in the area.

Not everyone understands how or why these reservoirs exist, said Merck. “These reservoirs were built as storage reservoirs for hydroelectric development,” he said.

Maybe the locals understand how the reservoirs came to be, but visitors may not aware that PG&E manages these sites, said Merck: “The general public probably has no idea.”

Understanding hydroelectricity

Bass Lake Sign

PG&E has begun adding its familiar logo to signs at popular recreation spots, such as the Pine Point Day-Use Area at Bass Lake. (Photo by Matt Nauman.)

Part of the reason some people don’t realize how these water sources came to be, is because many people don’t understand hydroelectricity and how it works. Simply put, hydroelectricity is generated by the force of falling water. A series of dams and reservoirs on river basins collect water. The water is then directed through large pipes (called penstocks) under high pressure to turbines that spin generators to create electricity.

Hydroelectricity is a source of safe, clean and reliable energy from a renewable source. To create it, PG&E relies on 16 river basins stretching nearly 500 miles from Redding in the north to Bakersfield in the south. And water to power the system comes from about 100 reservoirs, located primarily high up in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. The utilities 68 powerhouse generate enough power to meet the needs of some 4 million homes.

In addition to providing this cost-effective energy, the hydroelectric system provides habitat for fish and wildlife and public recreation areas, many of which PG&E maintains.

A Northern gem

Lake Almanor, formed by the Canyon Dam on the North Fork of the Feather River in Plumas County, is a popular destination point for families looking to experience the great outdoors. It is popular for water skiing, swimming and camping. It is also home to popular Rocky Point Campground.

Lake Almanor

Lake Almanor is popular for boating and fishing. (Photo by almanorfishingassociation.com)

Glenn Geer, owner of the Plumas Pines Resort on the south shore of the man-made reservoir, said some locals understand PG&E role in managing the recreational lake and campgrounds, but most out-of-town visitors don’t.

His resort, which sits on 15 acres, provides lodging, RV rental spaces, a lakefront restaurant/ bar in addition to a full-service marina and floating convenience store and gas pump. Businesses like his, on property leased from PG&E, provide jobs and have become a vital part of the area’s economic base.

“This is something that they [PG&E] have and no one else does. And I will be one of the first to testify how good they are at managing the lake and property,” he said.

There is an effort underway to better inform the public of PG&E’s role in the recreational sites, said Daniel Clark, senior land planner in PG&E’s land and environmental management division. “We’re making a concerted effort to make people more aware of our involvement,” he said. “We want to remind people that these are PG&E facilities.”

The effort includes improved signage with the PG&E logo on picnic and campsites and other areas maintained by the utility.

“I think we have come to recognize the value of these facilities to the community,” said Clark.

Tuesday: Camping, fishing and mountain beauty at Wishon and Courtright Reservoirs.

Wednesday: Scenery and more at Lake Almanor.

Thursday: Two spectacular trails near Diablo Canyon Power Plant.

Friday: Boating, fishing and relaxing at Bass Lake near Yosemite.

 

E-mail Tracy Correa at Tracy.Correa@pge.com

 

 

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