SDG&E Plans to Build Four More Microgrids to Help Reduce the Impact of Public Safety Power Shutoffs
The first utility-owned, community microgrid in America will soon be upgraded with new technology so it can operate on 100% clean energy, thanks to a $4.5 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). A microgrid is a mini power grid and may include a power source like solar, an energy storage component, and controls and switches that allow it to operate independent of or parallel to the larger grid.
The grant, awarded to San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) to advance solar energy technology, will provide funds to purchase smart power inverters, controls and a state-of-the-art energy management system. The new devices will improve energy reliability, stabilize the microgrid and help it become 100% renewable.
“This grant award comes at a pivotal time for our customers, our company and the next evolution of microgrid technology,” said Will Speer, vice president of electric engineering and construction for SDG&E. “Microgrids are one of the tools to enhance community resiliency and maintain energy service during emergencies. With the smart grid technology that we will incorporate into the microgrid, we are confident that this facility can become a model for future clean energy microgrids.”
The Borrego Springs microgrid began operations in 2013 after SDG&E saw an opportunity to improve energy resiliency for the approximate 2,800 people in Borrego Springs – a remote desert town subject to extreme heat and monsoonal weather. Until then, the town relied on a single transmission line and distribution circuit for its power. The microgrid is connected to a local 26-megawatt solar field (owned by a third party), two battery storage systems, two generators, and an ultracapacitor to keep power flowing to town during emergencies and planned outages on the larger grid.
Due to unstable voltage conditions and solar energy output fluctuations, it is challenging to operate the microgrid using 100% clean energy. The new inverter, controls and energy management system will help address these challenges and transition the microgrid to a true 100% clean energy facility.
SDG&E operates two microgrids, including the Borrego Springs location, within San Diego and southern Orange counties. The company is currently constructing four additional microgrids set to be completed in 2020 and 2021 as part of its Wildfire Mitigation Plan (WMP). SDG&E continues to explore microgrids, energy storage and other types of backup power solutions throughout the region as ways to keep power flowing to customers during emergencies or other situations that may result in outages.
SDG&E’s Borrego Springs microgrid was selected as a part of the SETO Fiscal Year 2019 funding program, an effort to invest in new projects that will lower solar electricity costs, while working to boost solar manufacturing, reduce red tape, and make solar systems more resilient to cyberattack. SDG&E’s Borrego Springs microgrid is one of several solar system integration technology projects that improve the ability of grid operators to integrate increasing amounts of solar generation onto the grid in a cost-effective, secure, resilient, and reliable manner.
SDG&E expects to finalize grant specifics with SETO and install the new technology by the end of next year.
SDG&E is an innovative San Diego-based energy company that provides clean, safe and reliable energy to better the lives of the people it serves in San Diego and southern Orange counties. The company is committed to creating a sustainable future by providing its electricity from renewable sources; modernizing natural gas pipelines; accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles; supporting numerous non-profit partners; and investing in innovative technologies to ensure the reliable operation of the region’s infrastructure for generations to come. SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE). For more information, visit or connect with SDG&E on Twitter (@SDGE), Instagram (@SDGE) and Facebook.
About the Solar Energy Technologies Office
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on the grid. Learn more at energy.gov/solar-office.