2018 DistribuTECH Project of the Year winner proves viability, benefits of microgrid technology

2018 DistribuTECH Project of the Year winner proves viability, benefits of microgrid technology

By: Mike Carlson President of Siemens Digital Grid, North America


This morning, we were proud to be on-hand in San Antonio to celebrate Blue Lake Rancheria’s win for 2018 DistribuTECH Project of the Year for Distributed Energy Resource integration. In partnership with their local utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Schatz Energy Research Center (SERC), and many others, the Rancheria has successfully rolled-out a low-carbon microgrid serving 200 members of the tribal community, over 1,500 people each day who visit the 100-acre reservation, and in emergencies, thousands of people across the Northern California region.


The microgrid, consisting of a backbone of solar PV power generation and storage technologies, embraces the shift to digitization by controlling these assets with Siemens intelligent Microgrid Management System (MGMS) software. The system allows the reservation to operate either connected to the PG&E grid, or can “island” its power supply in the event of a disaster or broader grid outage.


The system has been in operation for nearly a year, and proves the viability of microgrid technologies in real-world settings. In 2017 when a large storm caused power outages and landslides that cut off main arterials and vehicle access to the region last year, the system islanded seamlessly, allowing residents and visitors to continue business as usual while the grid and roads were restored.


But, the technology isn’t just viable, it results in a variety of economic and environmental benefits for the Tribe and the region. The project reduces energy costs by $200,000 annually and eliminates 195 of carbon equivalent greenhouse gas emissions. The system sources approximately 40% of its generation from renewable resources and is capable of supporting an array of utility demand response programs.

The project is also an example of the success of energy ecosystems, and is a result of partnership between governments, academic institutions, the local utility, national labs, and private industry. Funded in part by a California Energy Commission grant, the project was led by Humboldt State University's Schatz Energy Research Center (SERC), and developed in collaboration with several partners, including PG&E, Siemens, Tesla, and Idaho National Laboratory.


The success of the Blue Lake Rancheria microgrid project, and its well-deserved recognition at DistribuTECH 2018, is a clear indicator that this technology is here to stay. Microgrids will continue to help lead the transition from an antiquated, one-way power flow, to a bi-directional, distributed energy future, and enable feasible transitions to lower-carbon energy in the process.


Utilities, cities, governments, and industry should look to Blue Lake Rancheria as a clear example of how to combine new sources of power generation and advanced digital software tools in order to give energy users more flexibility and reliability, and ultimately shape a more secure, effective energy landscape.


Published On: January 23rd, 2018