US utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has unveiled a new programme to expand its microgrid portfolio within communities in its service territories as part of efforts to ensure energy resilience and decarbonisation.
Following approval from the California Public Utilities Commission and consultations with community representatives, PG&E has unveiled its Community Microgrid Enablement Programme. The initiative will help communities identify, design and build permanent, multi-customer microgrids serving critical facilities and vulnerable customer groups.
The aim is to ensure the reliability of energy supply to critical facilities such as hospitals, and areas with a higher likelihood of Public Safety Power Shutoffs such as disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.
Moreover, priority will also be given to areas with the potential to generate high renewable energy capacity.
PG&E will provide technical and financial support to shortlisted communities.
A microgrid is an electric system that can operate independently from the central energy grid. A community microgrid is a group of customers and distributed energy resources (DERs)—such as solar generation and battery energy storage systems—within clearly defined electrical boundaries with the ability to disconnect from and reconnect to the grid.
Fong Wan, PG&E’s senior vice president, energy policy and procurement, said: “We know how much our customers need reliable energy. Community microgrids will play a key role in PG&E’s ongoing efforts to harden our electrical system and enhance local grid resilience for customers throughout our service area in Northern and Central California. We look forward to partnering with our customers, especially those in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, to build customized resilience solutions that address local electric reliability needs for the long term.”
The first programme set to be supported by PG&E under the Community Microgrid Enablement Programme is the Redwood Coast Airport Renewable Energy Microgrid, in which the utility is partnering with the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University, Humboldt County and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, among others.
The front-of-the-meter microgrid will integrate solar energy generation with a battery energy storage system to provide renewable energy to some 18 customer meters including the Arcata-Eureka Airport and a US Coast Guard Air Station. Humboldt County will leverage the microgrid for emergency power supply during natural disasters and PG&E during planned and unplanned outages.
The project is expected to be operational by December 2021.