Microgrid Provides Critical Services Throughout Northern California During Power Shutdown

A groundbreaking microgrid developed to provide renewable power and energy resiliency for the Blue Lake Rancheria electricity was put to the test.


Newswise — Blue Lake Rancheria Microgrid Provides Critical Services throughout Northern California Power Shutoff

A groundbreaking microgrid developed to provide renewable power and energy resiliency for the Blue Lake Rancheria was put to the test during the recent statewide outage.

The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe’s main campus remained up and running when Humboldt County went dark, thanks to its fully integrated solar+storage microgrid developed by the Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State. The Rancheria’s gas station also stayed operational, running on a backup diesel generator that will be replaced later this fall by a second solar+ microgrid. Schatz played a leading role in the design and development of both microgrids, working in collaboration with the Rancheria and other project partners.

The microgrid provided a safe, warm environment for local families to study and play, charge cell phones, and access the internet; supported a mobile office for Humboldt’s daily newspaper, the Times-Standard; charged electric vehicles; and gave an electrical boost to municipal water and sewage systems. The gas station delivered fuel and other services for emergency response vehicles, government agencies, the Mad River Fish Hatchery, and thousands of community members.

One of the greatest concerns during power outages is impacts on people whose medical needs require ongoing access to electricity. During the power shutoff, the Rancheria also housed eight people with acute medical needs in its hotel, by request of the County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). DHHS credited the Rancheria with saving their lives, due to their critical needs for power. Emergency diesel was also provided to United Indian Health Services to power the backup generators that keep perishable medicines cold.

The Schatz Center’s current microgrid projects include installation of final components, testing, and commissioning of the solar+ system at the Blue Lake Rancheria’s gas station -- which will be operational this fall -- and development of the Redwood Coast Airport microgrid for deployment in 2021.

“As we prepare to deploy new microgrids currently under development for the North Coast and beyond, it’s good to see our first commissioned microgrid successfully delivering critical services for our region,” says Schatz Outreach Coordinator Maia Cheli.

About The Schatz Energy Research Center

Humboldt State University’s Schatz Energy Research Center in Arcata, California develops clean and renewable energy technologies for implementation worldwide. Current projects and expertise include microgrid design, off-grid energy access, offshore wind feasibility, bioenergy assessment, and clean transportation. The Center also plays a leading role in the World Bank Group’s Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia initiatives, which support high quality, affordable energy solutions for people in off-grid and marginal-grid communities.


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