California Releases $44.7 Million for Microgrid Grants; Applications Due Oct. 20

California has begun offering microgrid grants totaling $44.7 million to woo projects that will help it achieve its clean energy goals.

microgrid grantsIssued August 4, the grant offering (GFO-17-302) adds California to a group of states now actively courting microgrids with grant money.  Others include ConnecticutMassachusettsNew York and New Jersey.  Together these states are currently offering more than $100 million.

In California, the energy commission is providing the money as part of a larger effort to increase use of distributed energy resources, including energy efficiency, energy storage, electric vehicles, and demand response – all often core technologies for microgrids.

This is the second – and largest — major solicitation for microgrid projects issued by the California Energy Commission. In its first round, the commission offered $26.5 million in 2014, which resulted in seven microgrid demonstration projects.

Now the commission hopes to move beyond demonstration projects into designs that can be commercialized. By encouraging microgrids that are replicable and standardized, California hopes to drive down costs.

Money will be allotted in three categories: $22 million for military bases, ports, and Native American tribes; $11.7 million for disadvantaged communities; and $11 million to commercialize microgrids at other locations, among them rural areas, industrial complexes, universities and schools.

Electric reliability is especially important for California’s ports because they are responsible for more than 40 percent of the total containerized cargo entering the U.S. for almost 30 percent of the nation’s exports.

Individual microgrid grants will range from a minimum of $2 million to a maximum of $7 million. Winners must provide matching funds of 20 to 25 percent.

The commission is offering the most money– $7 million – for microgrid clusters.  In doing so, California taps into emerging interest in the grid-of-microgrid concept, where microgrids work in tandem to use resources more efficiently than they would alone. Commonwealth Edison also is pursuing the concept, as is the city of Pittsburgh and others.

To be eligible for the grants, a microgrid cluster must link several microgrids together “to reach higher capabilities and a more rapid commercialization.” The clustered microgrids can be co-located or they can be connected virtually.

The top award – $7 million – is for microgrid clusters

Other project requirements; no fossils

The state is seeking advanced microgrids, those with at least three distributed energy resources. The microgrids must be permanent installaions; mobile microgrids are not eligible.

To win the funding, projects also must:

  • Use none of the grant, nor matching funds, to purchase any diesel or fossil-fueled generation system
  • Reduce greenhouse gases 20 percent from what existed prior to installing the microgrid
  • Include a central microgrid controller that has access to all the critical elements of the microgrid for either controller functions or data monitoring
  • Be able to operate in islanded mode for an extended period
  • Be within the service territories of California’s three investor-owned utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric, and Southern California Edison.

Time is of the essence in dispersing the microgrid grants because some of the money will no longer be available after March 30. To that end, the commission is urging applicants to organize projects in a way that will minimize the amount of time it takes to undergo environmental review, which can be lengthy in California.

microgrid grants

California wants more of its ports to have microgrids. Pictured here: San Pedro Harbor ~ Los Angeles Port, California

Why offer microgrid grants

In the grant application’s preamble, the commission describes microgrids as one of the most effective tools to increase distributed energy resources. It portrays them as a 365-day/year resource, offering benefits not only during power outages, but also when the grid is operating normally.

Microgrids provide customers “with a series of capabilities that are needed in the daily operation of their energy systems,” says the commission. “They also provide new mechanisms that improve system reliability and resiliency while reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs).”

In addition, the commission noted that customers can derive revenue and savings through microgrids. These value streams may come through participation in demand response or sale of wholesale services to the grid.

Workshops and deadlines

The deadline to apply for the money is October 20. Pre-application workshops are scheduled for August 17 and 23. The commission expects to announce winners Jan. 12, 2018.

The grant application materials are available on the commission website.

Read more about microgrid grants and funding opportunities on the Microgrid Knowledge RFP channel.

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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

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  1. […] California Releases $44.7 Million for Microgrid Grants; Applications Due Oct. 20, by Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge, August 7, 2017. […]

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