Another California School District Eyes Microgrid in Response to Wildfire Shutoffs

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Responding to wildfire-related power outages, a California school district has hired CleanSpark to study the feasibility of building a microgrid.

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By David Prahl/Shutterstock.com

CleanSpark is working with the Shoreline Unified School District north of San Francisco. If approved, the microgrid will use solar energy, energy storage and back-up generation to meet the district’s energy needs and provide back-up power to surrounding communities during emergencies, according to Salt Lake City-based technology company.

Other school districts in California also are turning to microgrids, among them the Sonoma Valley Unified School District and the Santa Barbara Unified School District, as the state grapples with what Pacific Gas & Electric has warned could be a decade-long threat of wild-fire related shutoffs.

CleanSpark expects to give the district the results of the feasibility study’s first phase in March. The study, to be conducted at CleanSpark’s expense, will see if a microgrid can be built at no net cost to the district while being financially beneficial to CleanSpark, according to a memo to the school district’s board.

“The presence of microgrids would protect our schools from power outages, planned or otherwise,” the memo said. “Additionally, we would be able to employ renewable energy in our schools, which would have clear large-scale benefit.”

Seeking 5% energy use reduction

Pacific Gas & Electric, and other investor-owned utilities in California, last year cut off power to their customers in a series of planned outages called public safety power shutoffs. The outages were instituted during times of high wildfire risk.

The Shoreline school district covers about 450 square miles in western Marin and Sonoma counties. It has five elementary schools and a high school.

CleanSpark will first focus on the feasibility of creating a microgrid for the Tomales High School. The assessment will look to see if a microgrid could reduce electricity use at the school by 5%, according to a draft agreement, which was approved by the school board. It will also see if more than half of the school’s electricity could come from onsite resources while also supplying emergency power.

If approved, the project will operate under a power purchase agreement or an energy services agreement, according to the company.

CleanSpark will explore developing a district-wide microgrid if it moves forward with the high school project, according to the draft agreement.

The company expects to pay for the project with company funds and with financial partners.

Other CleanSpark microgrid projects

CleanSpark is a technology company that provides software, products and services for aggregated distributed energy resources and microgrids. The technology company has helped develop microgrids and renewable energy projects for the US Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton near San Diego, a municipal utility serving Colton, Calif., and a golf club in Borrego Springs, Calif.

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Besides increasing its software sales, CleanSpark is focused this year on helping energy professionals model microgrid projects in an accurate and bankable manner, according to the company’s annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month. “Accurate data is the key to ensure end customers can obtain the financing needed to bring these projects into reality,” the company said.

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