Microgrid to Protect Native American Site Plagued by Wildfire-Related Power Outages 

Nov. 30, 2020
The California Public Utilities Commission calls the Soboba lands a “Tier 3 – extreme threat” area that suffered multiple wildfires over the last two years.

Thanks to a solar plus storage microgrid, resilient power will soon be a reality for the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indian lands, an area threatened by wildfire-related power outages in California.

The California Public Utilities Commission calls the tribe’s lands a “Tier 3 – extreme threat” area that suffered multiple wildfires over the last two years.

Current forecasts predict the number of preemptive public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) will increase in this part of California. 

The microgrid will provide 50 kW of solar generation with a 0.5 MWh battery backup to the fire station site. The location is also the tribe’s incident command center, emergency shelter and distribution point for the tribe’s food, equipment, and supplies. 

Grid Alternatives, a non-profit organization, will handle design and construction of the microgrid system. Invinity Energy System’s flow battery will provide a minimum of ten hours of continuous backup power to the site.

The tribe plans to expand services, with a medical center and community building near the fire station, so resilient power will be even more critical. According to the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) grant request form, the project also includes a solar PV carport system. 

“We are excited to use innovative technologies to advance climate resiliency in tribal communities in California. This project will provide power to the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indian Fire Station for the reservation and surrounding communities,” said Lisa Castilone, community development and tribal program manager of GRID Inland Empire, an affiliate of GRID Alternatives.

According to the CEC’s Climate Center report, the project received $1.7 million in funding to demonstrate a flow battery with solar to provide fire station support and demonstrate the essential role that long-duration storage can play in delivering clean power to critical infrastructure.

GRID will use tribal job trainees to help build the microgrid system to increase community job readiness. The organization will also strengthen emergency plans and help make Soboba tribal members fully aware of how the microgrid operates during outages and emergencies.

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About the Author

Sharon Bennett

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