Sunrun Works with CCAs to Build Neighborhood Microgrids in Northern California 

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Sunrun has taken initial steps to build on its concept of neighborhood microgrids. It signed contracts with three community choice aggregators (CCAs) in the San Francisco Bay Area designed to meet state-mandated resource adequacy requirements.


By palidachan/

As described in a March 9, 2020, Microgrid Knowledge article, San Francisco-based Sunrun has proposed creating neighborhood microgrids that would allow for resilience and energy sharing within “distribution islands.”

The solar company signed resiliency contracts in mid-2020 with Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE), East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) and the Silicon Valley Clean Energy Authority (SVCE). Silicon Valley Power, the city of Santa Clara’s municipal utility, was part of the 2019 solicitation in which Sunrun was chosen, but the utility ultimately decided to opt out of a contract with the company. 

Sunrun has been signing up homeowners to install solar plus battery storage systems on their roofs. Sunrun pays them an incentive of $1,250 to give up a portion of the stored power. The solar/storage systems will also provide power to residences on a daily basis and in case of utility power shutoffs. 

The company will move power from the solar plus storage systems installed on the residential roofs to California Independent System Operator-controlled transmission lines on a daily basis to satisfy the CCAs’ resource adequacy requirement.

Neighborhood microgrids, CCAs and resource adequacy

Resource adequacy requires utilities and CCAs to have additional generation resources available during high peak demand periods, such as in a heat wave, to provide grid stability. 

As the Silicon Valley Clean Energy Authority staff informed its board of directors in a November report, “The negotiated contract is an innovative alternative approach to meeting RA [resource adequacy] obligations through reducing peak demand through the coordinated dispatch of BTM [behind-the-meter] resources.”

SVCE signed its $7.4 million contract with Sunrun in November 2020. In SVCE’s staff report presented to its board, Sunrun agreed to install between 1 MW and 7.5 MW of solar systems and battery storage ranging from 4 MWh to 30 MWh in SVCE’s service territory. Individual solar systems vary from 1 kW to 5 kW. Sunrun will deliver power starting Dec. 31, 2022, and continue through Dec. 31, 2032. 

According to a Sunrun fact sheet, its storage systems are designed to supply eight to 12 hours of backup power, depending on how much is used. 

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JP Ross, vice president of local development, electrification and innovation at East Bay Community Energy, said, “Having the residential battery resources reduces the amount of resource adequacy we have to buy.” He explained the contract with Sunrun requires the dispatch of power from the batteries between 4 p.m.-8 p.m. every weekday.  

When the power is out as in the case of a utility public safety power shutoff the solar and battery power will be available to run essential operations at individual residences. Ross said Sunrun always leaves 20% of the battery power as a reserve margin for residents.

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Waiting list

Through EBCE’s Resilient Home program with Sunrun, single-family homes and multifamily property owners are offered no-cost consultations and project quotes in addition to the incentive payments, according to Dan Lieberman, director of marketing at EBCE.

Lieberman said marketing and outreach is shared between Sunrun and EBCE. So far, 1,000 customers are signed and on the waiting list. Over 200 systems have been installed. 

Darren Goode at Peninsula Clean Energy in San Mateo County said Sunrun will install at least 1 MW by Jan. 1, 2022, on both single family and multifamily dwellings in PCE’s service territory. By mid-April, the company had installed over 150 systems but acknowledged the COVID-19 pandemic had slowed installations.

Goode said that Peninsula began by targeting customers who live in a high fire threat district and those customers who are on utility discount programs such as CARE, FERA or medical baseline rates. Goode said they are now starting to target all homeowners.

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