SDG&E microgrid uses solar, storage to avoid outage in small town

By Robert Walton, Utility Dive

SDG&E has pulled off what it believes is the nation’s first example of a renewables-fueled microgrid being used to provide power for an entire town in a real-world scenario.

The utility used the Borrego Springs Microgrid on May 21st after the transmission line that usually feeds the community was damaged by lightning. SDG&E said its crews needed to replace or repair three transmission poles, which would usually require a 10-hour sustained outage.

Just before 9 a.m. on May 21, the utility “seamlessly” switched the Borrego Springs community over to microgrid power, and then switched it back nine hours later when maintenance was complete. The microgrid was predominantly fueled by the nearby 26 MW Borrego Solar facility (owned by NRG Energy), and the utility used distributed generation to “follow the load” and fill in power fluctuations from the solar facility. As of the completion of the demonstration project, the Borrego Springs microgrid consisted of two 1.8 MW diesel generators, a 1500 kWh (500 kW) battery at the substation, three smaller 50 kWh batteries, six 8 kWh home batteries, and 700 kW of solar, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

SDG&E said that using solar generation to power Borrego Springs was one of the primary goals of a $5 million California Energy Commission grant, making it one of the nation’s largest microgrids that can operate solely on renewable energy.

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