Case Study: Blue Lake Rancheria Microgrid

May 24, 2016
Blue Lake Rancheria, a Native American reservation in Northern California, and Humboldt State University’s Schatz Energy Research Center have partnered with Siemens to build a low-carbon community microgrid.

As one of 16 U.S. communities designated White House Climate Action Champions, Blue Lake Rancheria, a Native American reservation in Northern California, had already made investments in alternative energy generation sources. The next step was to achieve even greater efficiency by optimizing how those resources are managed and dispatched.

Blue Lake Rancheria and Humboldt State University’s Schatz Energy Research Center partnered with Siemens to build a low-carbon community microgrid to power the entire 100-acre reservation, including government offices, casino, hotel and critical Red Cross safety shelter-in-place facilities.

Siemens Spectrum Power Microgrid Management System

Using Siemens Spectrum Power Microgrid Management System (SP MGMS), Blue Lake Rancheria will be able to accurately predict and adapt to the reservation’s power load needs based on integrated weather and load forecasting. The SP MGMS software is also “operator-free” and does not require traditional 24-7 monitoring. The reservation can use the SP MGMS software’s detailed power usage insight to provide its residents and businesses with reliable, high-quality power.

The microgrid is powered by a 0.5 MW solar photovoltaic installation — the largest solar array in Humboldt County — a 950 kWh battery storage system, the existing biomass fuel cell system and diesel generators. It is estimated to reduce 150 tons of carbon per year.

Microgrid Project At-A-Glance

  • Funded in part through a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC)
  • Largest solar array in Humboldt County, California
  • Powered by a 0.5 MW solar photovoltaic installation, 950 kWh battery storage system, biomass fuel cell system and diesel generators
  • Energy resources managed and controlled with “operator-free” Siemens Spectrum Power Microgrid Management System (SP MGMS) software
  • Utility grade SCADA software platform ensure interoperability with other load control systems and microgrid applications
  • Planned to be installed and operational by fall 2016

Microgrid Benefits

  • High-quality, reliable power without fear of outages or power interruption
  • Ability to operate independently of the power grid in coordination with local utility PG&E
  • Increased public safety in emergency situations
  • Year-round renewable energy to use — and technology that can store it.
  • Estimated to reduce 150 tons of carbon per year

“This project is an exemplary and successful collaboration between tribal, local, state, and federal entities, assertively working toward clean energy initiatives,” said Jana Ganion, Energy Director for the Rancheria.

“At a time when we’re seeing efforts at the state and federal levels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this groundbreaking project will use software to manage a complex mix of power generation and storage to bring clean and reliable power to critical sites across Blue Lake Rancheria’s 100-acre reservation,” said Pat Wilkinson, head of Siemens Energy Automation. “Microgrids are one of the most intelligent, efficient, reliable, and secure ways to create and manage power for the needs of a 21st century power market, and we’re proud that our technology will help Blue Lake Rancheria and Humboldt University continue to lead the way in implementing innovative energy systems.”

To see a brief video on the Blue Lake Rancheria microgrid and download a PDF click here.

About the Author

Cara Goman

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