Blue Lake Rancheria, a century-old Native American reservation in northern California, has launched its low-carbon community microgrid that is helping power government offices, economic enterprises, and critical Red Cross safety shelter-in-place facilities across 100 acres. In collaboration with Humboldt State University’s Schatz Energy Research Center, Siemens, the Idaho National Laboratory and additional partners, the microgrid uses decentralized energy resources and intelligent software to provide its residents and economic enterprises with reliable power without interruption.
The microgrid includes a 500 kW solar photovoltaic system designed and built by REC Solar and a 950 kWh Tesla battery storage system, all managed and controlled with Siemens’ Spectrum Power Microgrid Management System (MGMS) software. Funded in part through a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program, the system allows the reservation to operate independently of the power grid in coordination with local utility Pacific Gas & Electric.
This project is estimated to save the tribe over $200,000 in annual energy costs, reduce at least 150 tons of carbon per year and grow tribal clean energy jobs by 10%.
“With the help of our state, academic, technology, federal, and utility partners, this microgrid project has fulfilled the tribe’s aggressive energy security, economic, and environmental goals,” says Jana Ganion, the tribe’s sustainability director. “We have proven we can efficiently deploy the fiscally responsible solar and storage sources of energy, create clean energy jobs, and transition away from fossil fuels at a brisk and feasible pace.”
“At its core, this microgrid is an example of motivated governments investing in distributed grid improvements and low-carbon energy in a novel and replicable way,” adds Arla Ramsey, Blue Lake Rancheria’s vice chair.
“The Blue Lake Rancheria community is leading the way in their commitment to the environment,” says Alan Russo, senior vice president of sales and marketing at REC Solar. “We enjoyed working alongside a customer with shared values and a willingness to build such innovative energy solutions.”
“This project demonstrates how national laboratory assets can be leveraged as part of a diverse partnership to reduce risks and build resilient community microgrids,” comments Rob Hovsapian, power and energy systems manager at the Idaho National Laboratory.
“The continuing trend toward decentralized energy is made feasible, in large part, by the introduction of intelligent software to manage and control a vast array of energy resources,” says Pat Wilkinson, vice president at Siemens Digital Grid.
“The Blue Lake Rancheria has been a pioneer in bringing together a number of different energy technologies in one location through their microgrid,” says David Rubin, PG&E’s director of service analysis. “We have welcomed the opportunity to participate in this microgrid project because it showcases the use of multiple distributed energy resources while playing an important role in the community in the event of a natural disaster or another emergency.”