On July 7, the Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid (RCAM) community partners announced that construction activities would begin on California’s first 100% renewable, multi-customer microgrid. Let’s dive into what a microgrid is and how it’s helping California’s recent grid catastrophes.
For more on California’s grid challenges over the last year, check out this Los Angeles Times article, Why Does California’s Power Grid Keep Flirting with Disaster?
What is a Microgrid?
A microgrid is a self-sufficient energy system that serves a discrete geographic footprint. Areas it may serve includes a college campus, hospital complex, business center, neighborhood, or in this case, an airport.
So, what’s this really mean? Microgrids are local forms of energy that generate energy for customers nearby. It’s an independent power source that can disconnect from the central grid and operate without connection. However, while they can operate independently, they primarily remain attached to the central grid in a sort of symbiotic relationship.
Additionally, a microgrid often has a greater overarching goal, lower prices, cleaner energy, greater electric reliability, etc. and the microgrid controller aims to meet this goal by increasing or decreasing the use of the microgrid’s resources.
What is the Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid?
When built, the RCAM will provide energy resilience for the Humboldt County’s regional airport along with emergency services and medical life flights and the neighboring U.S. Coast Guard Air Station.
The microgrid’s solar arrays will have the ability to generate electricity for around 500 households on the North Coast. When power outages or emergency shutoffs occur, RCAM will be able to disconnect from the grid and run independently for a minimum of two weeks. In worse solar conditions like a winter storm event, the microgrid can provide up to 24 hours of backup power for the airport and Coast Guard.
Here are some of the basic details about this microgrid:
- Designed and developed by The Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University
- Owned by the Redwood Coast Energy Authority
- Run on power lines owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)
- Funded by a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission’s EPIC program
This 100% renewable microgrid is the first interagency collaboration of its kind. PG&E intends to model future multi-customer microgrids on the RCAM project to identify, design, and build customized resilience solutions. This should help to address local electric reliability needs for the long term.
The RCAM is scheduled to be fully operational later this year. For continued updates about anything and everything related to renewable energy visit Del Sol Energy. As leaders in local solar, we’re here to give your home greater electric reliability off the grid. If you’re interested in dramatically reducing your electricity costs and decreasing your carbon footprint, visit us here to learn about installing solar panels.