By Jason Fordney
Sacramento, Calif. — The California Energy Commission on Wednesday approved $10 million in grants for two microgrid projects, including one that represents a new form of partnership between investor-owned utilities and a community choice aggregator.
The commission in a 4-0 vote approved $5 million apiece in grants for microgrids at California Redwood Coast-Humboldt County Airport and at Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County. The CEC said the airport project enables further research into microgrids and many value streams, including demonstrating the ability for CCAs to work with utilities to maintain reliability, offsetting electricity costs, integrating microgrids into CAISO operations, generating data and producing ancillary benefits at the remote location.
The solar/storage project at the coastal airport will “represent the first multi-customer, front-of-the-meter microgrid with renewable energy generation owned by a CCA and the microgrid circuit owned by an IOU.” Redwood Coast Energy will own the generation while Pacific Gas and Electric will own the distribution circuit, with Schatz Energy Research Center leading the project.
The airport facility consists of two ground-mounted solar PV arrays, one a 250-kW array configured for net energy metering service, and the other a 2-MW, 6-acre array for wholesale power sale. It also features a 2-MW/8-MWh lithium ion battery storage system and will additionally power a U.S. Coast Guard station. It will add resilience to 18 accounts on PG&E’s Janes Creek 1103 distribution circuit and is seen as providing a roadmap for microgrid development, the CEC said.
The Santa Rosa project will be 136,000 square feet of rooftop solar on two existing parking structures and two 1-MW lithium-ion battery systems. Other subcontractors and vendors include the California Center for Sustainable Energy, PXiSE Energy Solutions, WorleyParsons, SunPower, STEM and nine other subcontractors to be announced.
Chairman Robert Weisenmiller on Wednesday said the CEC has been communicating with utilities and the Public Utilities Commission about making microgrids a priority in high fire-risk areas to help maintain resilience and reliability.
“It is time to move more toward the future in this area,” Weisenmiller said.
Commissioner Andrew McAllister said: “I think this is absolutely a valid thing to be doing,” but he called for “realism” as microgrids are developed. “Part of the challenge is to figure out and learn where they are really needed. … The goal isn’t necessarily for the whole distribution grid to be a complete assembly of microgrids.”
The projects were funded through the latest round of solicitations of the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC), a retail ratepayer surcharge. (See California Awarding $45 Million for Microgrids.) The program has funded hundreds of projects, approaching $500 million in awards.
The CEC also approved:
- Building energy efficiency standards for Marin County that will require all new single-family residences less than 4,000 square feet to be all electric or, if mixed fuel, to reduce energy consumption by 15%, or 20% below the 2016 standards if a PV is included. New low-rise multifamily residential will be required to be all electric or reduce energy consumption by 10%, or 15% if a PV system is included. New high-rise multifamily residential and new nonresidential construction will be required to be all electric or reduce energy consumption by 10%.
- A $1.5 million, 1% interest rate loan for energy conservation measures for the city of Weed for city-owned sites.
- A $260,000, 1% interest rate loan to San Diego County to install demand-controlled ventilation and more efficient interior and exterior lights at a nursing facility.