PG&E wants 20 microgrids ahead of 2020 wildfires


Beleaguered US utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) wants a total of 20 microgrids ready and operational at 20 of its substations ahead of the 2020 autumn wildfire season.

According to industry site Microgrid Knowledge, PG&E “wants to have the microgrids installed by June 1, 2020 or at the latest September 1, 2020”. The grids “will be used to keep electricity flowing when the utility shuts down power lines that could spark wildfires during windy and dry weather.”

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The systems are part of a larger, 716.9MW procurement stipulated by California regulators.

In a presentation before California’s state Public Utiities Commission in December 2019, PG&E said the microgrids would “keep power flowing to thousands if not tens of thousands of customers per substation during a power shutoff.”

It is hoped the microgrids would reduce the number of customers left without electricity during a “public service power shutoff” (PSPS) – the term used in the state to describe shutdowns to prevent sparking off wildfires. A shutdown on 29 October 2019 saw 941,000 customers lose power.

PG&E has also expressed interest in making microgrid installation easier for customers.

Beyond the 20 installations, PG&E said it would also help make it easier for customers to install their own microgrids.

“PG&E said the projects must be able to provide power to customers for at least four to five consecutive days,” Microgrid Knowledge says. And “when the microgrids are not providing backup power, they must serve the power grid and help bolster its resilience. The microgrids also must have black start capability, meaning they can start up without relying on a charge from the grid.”