Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
When California’s energy grid gets stressed out during heat waves, energy managers send out so-called flex alerts asking people to conserve energy.
An innovative energy project underway in Santa Rosa aims to take that flexibility to new levels by helping a huge energy user — the city’s water treatment plant — quickly reduce its energy usage while still performing its core mission of cleaning water.
A 125-kilowatt solar array popping up above the parking lot of the Laguna Subregional Water Reclamation plant on Llano Road is the first visible sign of a yearslong effort to turn the plant into a microgrid capable of reducing its use of electricity from the grid.
“Increasing our flexibility to produce energy on-site allows us to adjust our demand on the macro grid, and doing that is worth money,” said Mike Prinz, deputy director of Santa Rosa Water.
Microgrids, as the name implies, are small electric networks that can operate, to varying degrees, independently of the larger electrical grid managed locally by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
The solar panels are not the core of the new system, but will help recharge the batteries that are being installed later this year as part of the project.
Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8305925-181/solar-panels-to-help-power
Jeremy C. Owens, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
SolarCity, well-known for rooftop solar systems, is expanding to so-called microgrids, larger power systems that can be tapped by communities when the power grid goes down.
The systems, which add generators and software to manage the power to standard solar panels, will include Tesla Motors batteries to store the energy generated. While the owner can tap the solar power for daily use, the main purpose is to maintain electricity in the event of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane.
“There has been a dramatic increase in severe weather events the last few years — climate-related, almost certainly — and its led to more grid outages,” SolarCity spokesman Jonathan Bass noted, pointing to the storm known as Sandy that hit the Northeast last year as a prominent recent example.
The company is targeting cities that are in the line of fire for such catastrophic events for the new service.
“Traditionally, microgrids have been used in campuses, medical facilities and military bases, and we will pursue some of those opportunities if they become available,” said Daidipya Patwa, who is leading SolarCity’s microgrid efforts, “but our primary target is municipalities, communities and areas with a weak grid or no grid at all.”
Read more via SolarCity launches community microgrids with Tesla batteries – San Jose Mercury News.