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Energy solutions are an emerging market for the NECA-IBEW team. NECA has an energy solutions task force to give its contractors a leg up on both the technologies and business development of the 21st century electrical toolbox.

Those solutions are starting to pay dividends to the customers of the NECA-IBEW partnership. Nowhere is that more apparent right now than in San Diego, where Southern Contracting just finished a huge job for a big utility. The project is not only making the utility money, but it’s helping them deliver reliable, clean energy for customers.

Did you know that when you buy electricity matters? For example, a kilowatt hour bought during the day costs more than double what a kilowatt hour at night does. That might not mean much to you or me, but for utilities and other huge buyers and sellers of energy, we’re talking millions of dollars.

It’s with this in mind that the Olivenhain/Lake Hodges Pump House project was born. Owned by the San Diego County Water Authority, the work was performed by Southern Contracting, a NECA member from San Marcos, California and their IBEW Local 569 workforce.

Southern completed a pump station at the site and did a design-build on a 69 kV switchyard. The job took nearly four years to complete, with Southern providing additional workforce at every step along the way – from engineering advice to design reviews.

The project takes advantage of a gravity well – 770 feet of elevation change – to generate electricity during the day, and pumps that same water uphill at night.

Steve Vickers, project manager, Southern Contracting
“The basic purposes is to connect Lake Hodges, which is right behind us here, with the Olivenheim reservoir which is up over the hill. So there’s a tunnel coming down and they can flow water down and store it here at Lake Hodges. In the process of flowing water down, they can generate 40 megawatts of electricity. And then they turn it around and it’s a pump, and they can pump it back up to distribute it throughout the system.”

How is that economically feasible? Well, it’s simple arithmetic. It costs them 6 cents per kwH to pump it up, but they sell the power they generate during the day for 16 cents per kwH.

The result of the project was a generating station that as much a green energy solution as it is a high-tech example of saving a utility money.

Very simply, this is just what NECA and the IBEW does for their customers. It’s the type of energy solution that they are out there on the street delivering every day.

Timothy R. McBride, President/CEO, Southern Contracting Company
“It’s the industry reputation you want to have with these people. If you get in, you do a good job for them, you will end up having repeat clients over and over and over again. That’s the key to our success.”

Joe Melin, director of utility operations, IBEW Local 569
“We try to do the job right the first time. We really have the attitude that it’s not about how much money we make on it, it’s about doing the job right.”

NECA contractor Southern Contracting Company and their IBEW workforce from local 569 strives to partner with their clients and do the best for them. It’s allowed them to continue to grow and prosper along with their clients throughout the last 50 years.

Jim Filanc, director of business development, Southern Contracting
“We have a trusting relationship with our clients. We do what we say we’ll do. And we deliver the results safely, on time and within budget.”

In addition to the energy solution offered by Southern to San Diego, special care was taken to reduce the visual impact of the project. The natural beauty of the area was left intact so that not only can people use the energy generated by the station, future generations can continue to enjoy the lake for their recreation pleasure.