Justin Gerdes, GreenTechMedia
Four years ago California funded seven microgrid demonstration projects, from fire stations to a college campus. How have they performed, and what do they say about the future?
California is several years into a push to help commercialize microgrids in the state. Now, officials are taking stock of the performance of the first generation of microgrids supported under the effort.
These demonstration microgrids are delivering a reported utility bill savings of 20 percent to 60 percent, primarily in avoided demand charges, and some have successfully islanded during power outages.
State regulators believe microgrids, or localized grids that can operate apart from or in concert with the traditional power grid, offer solutions to some of the challenges facing grid operators, including integrating distributed energy resources.
The California Energy Commission (CEC), which has led the early work by state agencies to advance microgrids, has disbursed a total of $84.5 million to build 20 new microgrids scattered across the territories of the state’s three investor-owned utilities. Grant funding for the projects has come from the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC), a ratepayer-funded energy innovation research program.
The CEC recently convened a workshop on lessons learned from the seven microgrids funded under the EPIC program in 2015.
The projects include: a microgrid at the Blue Lake Rancheria, a tribal community in Humboldt County; a microgrid owned and operated by San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E) in Borrego Springs, which includes a 26-megawatt, ground-mounted solar PV array; microgrids installed at three City of Fremont fire stations; a microgrid installed at Kaiser Permanente’s Richmond Medical Center; a direct-current microgrid installed at a Honda distribution center; a microgrid on the Las Positas College campus; and a microgrid installed at the City of Santa Rosa’s Laguna Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The seven projects were awarded a total of $26.5 million, with project grants ranging from $3 million to $5 million each.