SDG&E to Create One of Largest Renewable Energy Microgrids in the US

Feb. 18, 2015
SDG&E plans to create one of the largest renewable energy microgrids in the United States with a $5 million grant to expand the Borrego Springs Microgrid.

San Diego Gas & Electric plans to create one of the largest renewable energy microgrids in the United States with the help of a $5 million state grant it received earlier this month.

The utility will use the funds to link its Borrego Springs Microgrid to a nearby 26-MW solar photovoltaic plant developed by NRG Energy.

SDG&E won the grant through a $27.3 million solicitation issued by the California Energy Commission for microgrids and electric vehicle charging. It was the only investor-owned utility among ten winners.

The Borrego Springs microgrid, built with $10 million in state and federal funds, now serves about 1,000 customers, but will be expanded to 2,800 customers as part of the project.

North of San Diego, Borrego Springs is somewhat isolated from the main grid, fed by a single sub-transmission line. SDG&E installed the 4-MW microgrid to improve reliability.

The community already has extensive roof-top solar; the islandable microgrid also now uses batteries, diesel generators and automated switching to ensure reliability.

The solar plant will provide enough energy to power the town during the day. Large batteries will store the solar energy to provide power when the plant’s output is low.

If the batteries exhaust their power, the system can access traditional on-site generation.

SDG&E said that new computer software will ensure that the power flow is consistent and the transitions occur seamlessly.

The Borrego Springs Microgrid, which is often cited as a model of what’s to come as the US develops more local energy, has averted several outages, according to the utility. Because of the project’s success, SDG&E is looking into developing additional microgrids.

The utility expects to complete the Borrego Springs Microgrid expansion by mid-2016. The solar plant went into operation in 2013, selling its output to the utility under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

“This funding will create a true renewable energy microgrid, one that not only bolsters local electric reliability, but does so by using the cleanest resources available. This project combines our core priorities of enhancing reliability, promoting innovation and connecting to more clean energy, and we greatly appreciate the CEC’s support in making this happen,” said James Avery, SDG&E’s senior vice president for power supply.

Green Energy Corporation, Lockheed Martin, and Oracle were among the contractors that helped SDG&E develop the Borrego Springs Microgrid.

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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 RealEnergyWriters.com, 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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