California rancherias look to microgrids for power during natural disasters

By Edward Ortiz, The Sacramento Bee

As the deadly Butte fire ravaged the foothills of Amador and Calaveras counties last month, rooms at the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort were transformed from guest rooms to cot-filled dormitories to accommodate hundreds of people evacuated from nearby communities. The fire scorched 71,000 acres, felling scores of power lines in its path.

Many homes and businesses went dark as firefighters battled to get the flames under control. But the lights stayed on and power kept flowing at the rancheria’s hotel and casino because of a specialized network of generators and electrical equipment that gave the rancheria temporary energy independence from the regional power grid operated by Pacific Gas and Electric.

The Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians, the tribe that runs the casino, is among a handful of California tribes experimenting with power setups known as microgrids. Essentially, these are small-scale energy distribution networks that allow owners to disconnect from the regional power grid and generate their own electricity. Microgrids have been around for years, often installed as a backup power option for military bases and universities. The concept is fairly new on tribal lands, but drawing interest because many California rancherias are in rural areas prone to fire, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Read full article in the Sacramento Bee

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