Borrego Springs

Dispatches from San Diego, pt. 4

This is part four in a series on our trip to San Diego for the Energy Storage North America conference and expo. Here are parts onetwo and three.

It’s a long flight from Beijing to California, so it’s not every day that our Chinese members have the opportunity to visit demonstration projects in the United States. We wanted to make the most of our San Diego trip, and so scheduled a trip to Borrego Springs, a community two hours away hosting a 26 megawatt solar facility and a 4.5 MWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system owned and operated by San Diego Gas & Electric. The batteries were provided and installed by Saft, with PCS from Parker and ABB.

The microgrid was funded in part by the Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission to build energy resilience in a remote community within California’s largest state park. The community’s population fluctuates between 2,500 and 10,000 residents, causing seasonal swings in load. Most importantly, the community is served by only a single transmission line strung in rugged terrain, leaving the community vulnerable to prolonged outages due to fire, lightning strikes, or floods.  

The microgrid has already proven itself as a powerful back-up system. During a planned transmission maintenance outage in May, the utility was able to switch customers to microgrid-supplied power after only a 10-minute outage. According to Jeff Mucha, project manager at SDG&E, that outage length was necessary to maintain personnel safety while flipping switches manually. The company is currently installing automation systems to make it possible to control microgrid services from SDG&E headquarters in San Diego.

This facility demonstrates the myriad values that microgrids can provide. In many ways, it was the ideal bookend to a trip that began with a visit to UC San Diego’s microgrid. One site was a telescope looking at the future technologies and business models that can help achieve grid stability and reduced carbon emissions in an urban, EV-heavy setting. The other, by contrast, showed how microgrids and energy storage can build resilience in isolated communities with plentiful solar resources.

Big thanks to Jeff Mucha and Donna Miyasako-Blanco at SDG&E, and Linda Haddock at the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce.

This is the final part of our blog, Dispatches from San Diego. See parts one, two, and three.