Pacific Gas & Electric, the utility company that serves much of northern California, has commissioned the first of many standalone microgrids in Mariposa county near Yosemite National Park. Built and installed by BoxPower, the remote grid will permanently replace the overhead distribution power lines that once served a handful of customers in Briceburg, a community located in a High Fire Threat District of the Sierra Nevada foothills. The new microgrid will improve reliability while significantly reducing the risk of wildfires in the area.
The hybrid system uses solar combined with battery energy storage and backup propane generators to provide a permanent supply of electrical energy to remote customers as an alternative to using traditional poles and overhead wires.
BoxPower says such microgrids may be used to supply other remote locations that are served by conventional transmission lines that traverse other HFTD areas. The microgrids are expected to cost less to build and maintain than building and servicing transmission lines. BoxPower has previously installed two of its microgrid systems in Puerto Rico.
“PG&E is eager to deliver the benefits of remote grids to our customers, and we intend to expand the use of standalone power systems as an alternative to certain existing distribution lines, providing enhanced reliability with a lower risk profile and at a lower total cost,” says Jason Glickman, executive vice president for engineering, planning and strategy at PG&E. The PG&E customers receiving electric service from the Briceburg Remote Grid include two residences, a visitor center, and telecommunications and transportation facilities.
The microgrid will be 89% powered by renewable energy from a BoxPower SolarContainer and a ground mounted solar array rated at 36.5 kW DC. The system includes a 27.2 kW / 68.4 kWh lithium ferro phosphate battery energy storage system manufactured by BoxPower. There are also two 35 kW propane generators integrated into the system and a fire suppression system to protect the hardware and the facility.
PG&E and BoxPower will be able to monitor and control the system via satellite and cellular connectivity, with capabilities for remote performance management, safety diagnostics, alarms, reporting, and automated refueling notifications. The containerized microgrid system is designed for rapid deployment and scalability, streamlining future replication at similar sites. PG&E has identified hundreds of potential locations for remote grids and is targeting up to 20 operational remote grid sites by the end of 2022.
“BoxPower is proud to play an important role in bringing clean, reliable, and fire-safe power to rural energy consumers through our work with PG&E and other utility companies,” Angelo Campus, CEO of BoxPower tells CleanTechnica in an email. “PG&E is leading the industry shift in California in terms of using remote grids specifically for wildfire mitigation purposes. PG&E’s example is one that other utilities in the state and across the West may be eager to follow in the face of worsening drought and extreme wildfire conditions.”
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