California to Release Solicitation for Mobile Microgrids to Help During Power Shutoffs

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The California Energy Commission (CEC) plans in late December to release a $14 million solicitation for mobile microgrids that will provide resilience during grid outages related to public safety power shutoffs (PSPS).

mobil microgrids

By Lightspring/

The commission wants to develop and demonstrate ways to increase resilience during grid outages using clean energy alternatives to mobile fossil fuel generators, according to a summary of the upcoming solicitation.

The solicitation will focus on systems that use renewable generation and energy storage. They must be mobile so they can support communities during outages.

The renewable and energy storage units will replace large mobile fossil fuel systems that now serve emergency response teams or provide power for personal electronic or medical device charging.

The state will award funds in three categories: Two in technology demonstration and deployment for systems that support small or large loads, and one in applied research and development to replace mobile fossil fuel systems that meet larger loads.

Solicitation part of $1.3B EPIC investment

The funds will come from the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC), which supports scientific and technological research that helps the state meet its clean energy goals.

State officials discussed the mobile microgrid solicitation during a media briefing about an EPIC symposium held this week. The symposium  attracted more than 1,000 cleantech innovators, researchers and entrepreneurs to discuss emerging technologies, share best practices and make connections about projects and partnerships.

EPIC will continue for another 10 years, thanks to a recent decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). “This shows California’s commitment to clean energy and decarbonization, it represents a $1.3 billion investment,” said Janea Scott, commission vice chair, during the media briefing.

Past EPIC investment includes $100 million in energy storage, which supported 60 demonstration projects.

During the press briefing about the symposium, CPUC Commissioner Martha Guzman-Aceves pointed to the need to replace diesel that’s backing up substations during PSPS events.

“It is very unfortunate that many of our substations are backed up with diesel,” said Guzman-Aceves. “There has been an outcry in communities, and by state leaders, including the governor’s office. We’re concerned that (use of diesel) will continue as status quo. That’s a targeted opportunity that EPIC will work on.”

But the new microgrid solicitation will not necessarily be geared solely to substations, noted Michael Ward, CEC spokesman.

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Going forward, the CEC is looking at rolling in mini-microgrids during PSPS events, said CEC Vice Chair Janea Scott. The microgrid solicitation will identify potential technologies.

She noted that the EPIC program recently awarded long-duration storage awards. “We really hope that will help us find and provide realistic alternatives, more alternatives that are not running on diesel. We recognize the incredible health impacts that diesel has on communities and people.”

Guzman-Aceves expects local energy to help meet the need for resilience and sees community choice aggregators as important players who offer innovative solutions able to yield more microgrids.

A November 12 workshop will address the status of clean alternatives to diesel generation. The CEC plans to discuss the increased use of backup diesel generators as a result of wildfires and PSPS events. The workshop will also look at the increased use of large backup diesel systems for data centers and may focus on research into clean alternatives and research EPIC should consider over the next five years to find alternatives to diesel use.

mobile microgrids

EPIC Investments, image courtesy CEC

Next for energy storage in California

The state also is studying barriers to implementation of energy storage. In 2020, the CPUC convened a policy and innovation working group to help align EPIC investments with California energy policy needs, and energy storage is part of that discussion.

The working group is composed of the CPUC and the four EPIC administrators: CEC, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric. A key aim of the effort is to share lessons learned from EPIC research. The CPUC will focus on four state policy priorities: wildfire mitigation, transportation electrification, equity and PSPS.

For wildfires, the key focus is on technologies that can reduce or prevent wildfires from the electric system. Another goal is to minimize social and economic disruption from PSPS events.

Because battery energy storage is important to meeting California’s energy goals, the state is also studying how to extract lithium from high concentrations of the metal found in brine produced by the state’s geothermal hot spots, said Ward.

In September, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1657, which directs the CEC to convene a blue ribbon commission on lithium extraction in California, with 14 members appointed by a combination of the CEC, other state agencies, the speaker of the state assembly, and the Senate Committee on Rules.

EPIC funds 34 technologies

Meanwhile, EPIC continues to fund technologies that are commercialized. Thirty-four technologies funded through EPIC have been commercialized, and a dozen more are in the pipeline.

Right now, a major goal of such investments is to solve challenges related to fires, said CEC Chair David Hochschild.

“The fires were the story of the year,” he said during the EPIC press briefing. “The forest fires this year highlighted the need for bold solutions.”

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  1. Berton Moldow says:

    I would think the only viable portable alternative to diesel would be a portable fuel cell. Solar panels require too large a foot print unless the vehicle employs panels that can unfold but even there you will be severely limited.

  2. There is a scalable and fuel flexible technology suited to micro-grid applications that can be delivered to the preferred site on a semi-trailer although it could take more than one semi-trailer depending mostly on how large the micro-grid needs to be. Google for and contact Advanced Alternative Energy or search for it on Facebook.

  3. The world needs to invest $45 trillion in renewable energy in coming decades, build some 1,400 nuclear power plants and vastly expand wind, solar and biomass power in order to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to a new energy study. There is one way to enable each of the above except for the nuclear power plants and it can save as many $Billions or $Trillions as are invested. Thus investors should do the research and learn about it as this approach can enable humanity to roll back induced global warming and all the problems climate change is producing. Things like droughts, wildfires, sea-level rise, loss of species and yes even pandemics.

    “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil but
    because of the people who don’t do anything about it” ~Albert Einstein
    “insanity is repeating the same behavior over and over and expecting different results”
    ~Albert Einstein
    To put it another way; it’s insanity to believe we can solve problems by using the
    same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
    ~Les Blevins
    “Because many of the best solutions to society’s most pressing problems can be found at the local level, we support community-led efforts to drive transformational change that can be adapted, scaled and replicated”

  4. “To put it another way; it’s insanity to believe we can solve problems by using the
    same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
    ~Les Blevins

    Then you pundit: ” ….build some 1,400 nuclear power plants…” There are about 450 nuclear plants world wide and something like 97 nuclear plants in operation in the U.S.. With the experience so far when SONGS in California was decommissioned a few years ago and another nuclear plant Diablo Canyon will be decommissioned by 2025, I’m not seeing sanity in chasing nuclear power generation from now on. Individual energy generation and responsibility is a better distributed plan without actinide and nuclear waste that will be ‘hot’ for generations to come.

  5. David Haskell says:

    Ok guys enough with the philosophy — I have a magnificently simple solution — My company Symmetric Energy LLC of Fairfax, California represents a technology that can provide functioning mobile micro grids.

    At the heart of this “microgrid” is a bi-directional inverter that can not only fill a battery with solar generated power, it can also use the power in the battery to be connected to a building. That in itself is not magical, but what is magical is this bidirectional inverter super charges EVs and then allow the house to be plugged into the car. The mobile Microgrid is a battery on four wheels –The car can be dispatched to any place that has another “Bi-directional Inverter installed and voila’ we have a mobile microgrid. Interested in this technology –g drop me an email

  6. Peter S Wang says:

    Thoughts on Cleanspark for California?

  7. Vic Hardy says:

    Or go all in on rooftop solar and V2G.
    1. Mandate that utilities ‘must’ buy back power at wholesale prices. Kill net metering now.
    2. Subsidize solar roofs by 50% or more
    3. Fast track V2G standards and subsidize home inverters/chargers to facilitate it.
    4. Up state subsidies for BEV’s to $15K, no limit on manufacturer’s sales
    5. Invest ‘heavily’ in batteries like Australia is doing, especially in areas prone to fire outages

    Seems to me that having solar on every rooftop is the ultimate distributed power vision.

    • OK, so I’m not really up to speed on microgrids and I visited the site and read a few articles and definitions. The mobile thing is pretty much undoable unless you’re talking about delivering diesel or hydrogen. Solar/Wind is just not feasible. However it seems to me that the whole definition of a microgrid has to include batteries, and a lot of them unless you have a local peaker plant (not green) or a small nuclear power plant such as thorium or one of the other new technologies that are I believe in development.
      But getting back to batteries, I guess I’d add to my other comment heavy subsidies for the Tesla PowerWall or similar home battery systems. With this and V2G standards with the growing number of BEV’s (especially in California), that’s probably about the best you’re going to do now.

    • There’s a whole narrative that is unfortunately ignored with a specifically “utility” focused scale solution replacing overall small distributed solar PV and smart ESS on individual homes and small businesses.

      Efficiency, no matter what generation resource one puts online, fueled or non-fueled there are specific considerations for each technology. Centralized fueled generation like boiler to steam to turbine generation, loses about 40% of the energy put into the system as heat loss right off the top. Every time one steps a voltage up or down along the grid you lose about 3% of the power to transformer losses. You lose about 60 to 80% of a fueled generation solution in power losses, which all ratepayers get to pay for as ‘overhead costs’. Replacing fueled centralized generation gets rid of the heat losses, but as we all know solar PV and wind generation are not 100% capacity. Solar PV is around 25% to 30% capacity, wind can be from 40% on shore to (maybe) 70% capacity off shore. There’s still a 12% to 25% transformer loss intrinsic to the grid itself. Now we’re back to (capacity), intermittent generation like solar PV and Wind generation need energy storage, how much energy storage is needed? How much does it cost to construct and operate? How reliable is it compared to fueled generation? All of these questions are still circulating and will take years of actual operations to determine. Meanwhile, costs of energy storage is coming down in price.

      With solar PV, it is the most efficient installed on one’s roof where the power will be used. It is also more efficient to store over generation in a smart ESS and extend the solar PV harvest day into the night. With the proper programming of the ESS, it is possible to run the home off of the solar PV system and battery most of the time and use the utility grid as backup. The biggest obstacle today is the ratepayer has been institutionalized to the “utility” supplies the power and you use and pay for it. The distributed method of solar PV on the roof and the responsibility of maintenance and repair is yours.

  8. Justin Lippmann says:

    What about natural gas turbines? There are mobile 32 Megawatt packages available that output directly to the existing power line infrastructure. Much cleaner emissions than diesel and will take up far less real-estate than a battery or solar array.

    • Yes but they don’t run and are a waste of time. This is why you constantly lose your marketshare in the fields you operate in. NG is a great, clean alternative but your company can’t keep them running