California Tribe Explores What Some See as the Future: Networked Microgrids

networked microgrids
networked microgrids

Not just anyone can develop networked microgrids. Image courtesy Smarter Grid Solutions The problem? It requires ownership of the land on which all of the networked microgrids will be located, according to Tim McDuffie, senior business development engineer for Smarter Grid Solutions.

His company has proposed networked microgrids for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, located in Hoopa, Calif., a remote area of northern California where the tribe is subject to outages due to public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

The project would network, behind the meter, a number of small microgrids located in critical buildings on tribal property, including the fire station, police station, medical center, a community center and a tribe owned grocery store. They are located within an area that has a two or three-mile radius, he said.

Attempting networked microgrids in a town or other non-tribal community can be difficult, he said. What’s different for the Hoopa project is that one entity owns all the different pieces. “It comes down to broad ownership of resources and existing buildings,” McDuffie said.

In California, microgrids that attempt to connect buildings to more than two contiguous parcels, or across a street, run afoul of what’s known as the over-the-fence rule. Such microgrids are deemed to be utilities, meaning they become subject to a level of regulation impossible for a small entity to manage. Microgrids in other states often face similar restrictions.

As a result networked or ‘clustered’ microgrids remain rare, although some believe they represent the future of the electric […]

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