California’s first 100% renewable energy, multi-customer microgrid now operational

June 9, 2022
Project features a 2.2 MW solar PV array and a 2 MW BESS comprising three Tesla Megapacks

The Schatz Energy Research Center at Cal Poly Humboldt, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, Pacific Gas & Electric, the County of Humboldt, TRC, The Energy Authority, Tesla and Schweitzer Engineering Labs have completed a microgrid project in California that powers the regional airport and the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station.

California’s first 100% renewable energy, front-of-the-meter, multi-customer microgrid is in Humboldt County and is now operational.

The Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid (RCAM) project features a 2.2 MW solar photovoltaic array, which is DC-coupled to a 2 MW battery energy storage system, consisting of three Tesla Megapacks. RCAM generates clean energy for the North Coast, stores solar energy during the day and then supplies it to the grid during peak periods or in the evening. The RCAM participates in the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) wholesale energy markets.

During a power outage, the microgrid continues to supply energy to the circuit covering the airport, the Coast Guard Air Station and the neighboring facilities.

As this is the first project of its kind in California, it offers a business model for renewable microgrid deployment that can be applied in other locations too.

The Schatz Energy Research Center led the design and development of the RCAM project. The Redwood Coast Energy Authority owns and operates the electricity generation equipment of the microgrid project. PG&E owns and operates the microgrid circuit.

“An important success of RCAM was how we were able to work through the complex financial, technical, regulatory, business, and operational hurdles facing this project,” said Dana Boudreau, RCEA’s Director of Operations and Infrastructure. “This experience will serve us well as we continue to engage our community in building offshore wind energy, supporting more solar and storage capacity, and developing new community microgrids.”

“The Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid (RCAM) has ushered in a new and exciting era for the electric grid in California,” added Peter Lehman, Founding Director of the Schatz Center and project lead. “With its successful deployment and the development of new microgrid agreements and tariffs, RCAM has become a role model and beacon to communities across the state who are striving to green their energy supply and bolster their resilience in the face of climate change.”

The project was supported by a $5 million grant from California’s Electric Program Investment Charge and $6 million from the Redwood Coast Energy Authority.

“RCEA’s goal is to provide our customers with 100% carbon-free electricity by 2025, and 100% local carbon-free electricity by 2030. This project is a major milestone for our clean energy and resilience efforts,” explined Matthew Marshall, Executive Director of RCEA. RCEA works closely with schools, fire departments, Native American Tribes, and other local agencies to support community resilience across the North Coast.