Humboldt County, California, is at the end of the line, electrically speaking. Earthquakes, floods, landslides, and wildfires cut off utilities—and roads—into the area. PG&E, the state’s largest utility, has begun preemptively cutting power when the fire risk along the path of its transmission lines is high.
So, Redwood Coast Energy Authority, a coalition of local governments working on sustainable energy projects, teamed up with Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University to build a microgrid to keep the power on for critical operations—and sell electricity directly to local ratepayers when all is well.
A microgrid is complicated for technological and legal reasons. When this one is completed in 2021, it will be the first of its kind and a working example of how other regions can subsidize disaster preparedness by getting into the renewable energy business.
The microgrids that hospitals and labs use for emergencies rely on diesel generators. A solar microgrid produces power even when there isn’t a crisis. This 2.2-megawatt array, connected via a DC coupler to a 2.2-megawatt battery system, will automatically detach and run autonomously when the larger grid goes down.