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Rancheria Launches Microgrid That Can Power Reservation

For some communities, like the Blue Lake Rancheria in Humboldt County, a climate change plan means building a microgrid. Last week, the rancheria celebrated the completion of a $6.3 million microgrid project two years in the making.

“This project shows the type of leadership and partnership that can advance California’s climate and renewable energy goals, help transform our energy system and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas.

The Energy Commission provided $5 million in grant funding from its Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program for the project. The EPIC program invests more than $120 million annually for innovations and concepts that help California meet its energy and climate goals.

Microgrids are small-scale electrical systems that provide and manage power independent of the larger electric grid. They are becoming more common in places like data centers and military bases.

The Blue Lake microgrid boasts a 500-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system – the largest solar array in Humboldt County. The system also includes a 1 megawatt-hour Tesla battery storage system and back up diesel generators.

Rancheria officials said the project helped create new jobs while reducing energy costs by about $200,000 a year.

The project was designed to power the entire 100-acre reservation including its government offices, a casino, and an onsite hotel and event center. The microgrid will allow the reservation to operate independently of the power grid in coordination with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). Because of the microgrid’s reliability, especially in times of natural disaster or emergency situations, the reservation will act as a Red Cross safety shelter.

“This collaborative and innovative project will demonstrate how microgrid systems can increase energy resiliency and planning,” Douglas said.

The microgrid project is a partnership between Humboldt State University’s Schatz Energy Research Center, Idaho National Laboratory, Siemens, Tesla, PG&E and REC Solar.

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