The multi-customer solar-plus-storage system aims to provide energy resilience for Humboldt County and serve as a blueprint for other clean microgrids.
California’s first 100 per cent renewable energy multi-customer microgrid is fully operational, providing enhanced energy resilience for the California Redwood Coast-Humboldt County Airport and US Coast Guard Air Station.
The microgrid serves multiple functions and is managed in collaboration with a number of project partners. The Schatz Energy Research Centre at Cal Poly Humboldt is the prime contractor and technology integrator, leading the design, testing and deployment of the clean energy microgrid.
Alongside the County of Humboldt, other partners are Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Schweitzer Engineering Labs, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, Tesla, The Energy Authority, and TRC.
The Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid (RCAM) features a 2.2-megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic array that is DC-coupled to a 2-MW (9 megawatt-hour) battery energy storage system, comprised of three Tesla Megapacks. It also includes a microgrid control system, with protection and isolation devices that interfaces directly with PG&E’s distribution control centre.
“The Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid has ushered in a new and exciting era for the electric grid in California,” said Peter Lehman, founding director of the Schatz Centre and project lead. “With its successful deployment and the development of new microgrid agreements and tariffs, RCAM has become a role model and beacon to communities across the state who are striving to green their energy supply and bolster their resilience in the face of climate change.”
Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA), the community choice aggregator for the Humboldt Bay area, owns the two solar arrays and the battery energy storage system.
During standard blue-sky operations, RCAM generates clean energy for the North Coast and participates in the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) wholesale energy markets, including the day-ahead, real-time, and ancillary services markets.
“RCEA’s goal is to provide our customers with 100 per cent carbon-free electricity by 2025, and 100 per cent local carbon-free electricity by 2030”
By storing solar energy during the day and releasing it onto the grid as needed in the evening and during peak demand, RCAM enables greater utilisation of solar, supports grid reliability, and creates an economic model for future microgrids.
“RCEA’s goal is to provide our customers with 100 per cent carbon-free electricity by 2025, and 100 per cent local carbon-free electricity by 2030. This project is a major milestone for our clean energy and resilience efforts,” said Matthew Marshall, executive director of RCEA. RCEA works closely with schools, fire departments, tribes, and other local agencies to support community resilience across the North Coast.
PG&E owns, operates, and maintains the microgrid circuit and controls the microgrid during ‘islanded’ operation. In the event of a broader grid outage, the clean-energy microgrid provides indefinite power for the 19 connected customers by disconnecting or ‘islanding’ from the broader grid when needed and becoming an independent, PG&E-operated grid segment. This ensures that airport flight service and rescue operations continue without interruption, the utility claims.
“The Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid represents the culmination of many years of research, innovation, and collaboration by the world’s leading microgrid experts,” said Jason Glickman, PG&E’s executive vice president, engineering, planning and strategy.
“It also serves as the foundation for a replicable and scalable model for widely deploying multi-customer microgrids across PG&E’s service area”
“Thanks to this team’s smart work, microgrids now play a key role in PG&E’s ongoing efforts to harden our electrical system and enhance local grid resilience throughout Northern and Central California.
“We know how much our customers and communities need reliable energy, and this system not only increases local reliability, it also serves as the foundation for a replicable and scalable model for widely deploying multi-customer microgrids across PG&E’s service area. This gives communities a new tool in securing their resilience and clean energy goals.”