California Awards $1.5M to Plan Advanced Microgrid in Santa Monica

Aug. 14, 2016
Santa Monica’s advanced microgrid is being designed to serve city departments, an arts center and a mobile home park on a 25-acre property.

The California Energy Commission last week granted $1.5 million for planning and design of an advanced microgrid in Santa Monica.

The funding comes from the state’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program, created to bring innovative clean energy ideas to market.

Santa Monica won the money from an EPIC competition earlier this year, which drew 13 teams made up of government and private industry applicants. The teams offered models for zero net communities.

The Santa Monica project is being designed as a 25-acre ‘advanced energy community’, where multiple buildings on contiguous properties are integrated into a microgrid that uses renewables, energy storage, and EV charging and controls.

The advanced or ‘multi-user’ microgrid will serve both public and private buildings, according to the project application filed with the commission.

At its core will be the 14.7 acre City Yard Project that houses several municipal departments, such as water and waste operations, fire rescue, recyling and vehicle fleet maintenance.

Project designers will look at ways to scale up the microgrid so that it can expand beyond the City Yard Project, and serve both city-owned and private property.

For example, the team hopes to eventually bring a nearby mobile home park into the microgrid. The park’s 105 homes sit on 4.8-acres that the city leases to the tenants at affordable rates. Twenty of the homes have solar panels.

The advanced microgrid may also encompass a planned 5.8-acre art center with an art gallery, hotel, creative office, retail, restaurant and cultural performance spaces.

A range of distributed energy resources are being considered for the microgrid, among them solar, combined heat and power, energy storage, small-scale waste-to-energy, and electric vehicle-to-grid.

Barriers to overcome

Sometimes unaware of microgrids, other times deterred by their upfront costs, risk-adverse real estate developers aren’t installing microgrids, says the application. The project team hopes the Santa Monica microgrid will model ways to overcome this barrier to microgrid development.

Specifically, the project’s goals are to identify:

  • How local government and the electric utility can support the development of an advanced energy community, and reduce financial and regulatory barriers
  • The best model for ownership and operation
  • The optimum portfolio of financing mechanisms
  • The role the private sector can play

Key partners in the project are Southern California Edison and Worthe Real Estate Group. Vendors include Energy & Environmental Economics, the Regents of the University of California, ICLEI – USA, Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company, Miller Hull Partnership and Buro Happold Engineering.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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