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San Diego Goes Solar at 8 Municipal Facilities Through 5 Million Dollar Microgrid Project

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Solar panel in San Diego

San Diego's Climate Action Plan, led by Mayor Todd Gloria, forms a comprehensive infrastructure initiative aimed at creating sustainable energy solutions for the SoCal city. $5 million of the budget was recently allocated to the installation of eight solar-powered "microgrids" throughout the city at key municipal facilities to tackle the challenge of carbon emissions, foster energy self-sufficiency and safeguard the city from power outages. "Microgrids," best described as local energy systems capable of operating independently from the main grid, have arrived as a potential solution for San Diego communities.

The facilities that will house these microgrids have been carefully selected and hold great potential to serve their surrounding communities during the unexpected power outages that have plagued the city in recent years. Not only will the proposed microgrids help generate power and serve as an energy lifeline in times of need but will also act as supply distribution centers and shelters. Traditionally, these facilities rely on diesel generators as backups, which create harmful greenhouse gas emissions, unlike the cleaner, more environmentally friendly and reliable solar microgrids.

The implementation of microgrids, despite their utility and promotion of green energy solutions, has been limited due to the cost of the initial investment required. San Diego, however, has partnered with Snell New Energies (a subsidiary of Dutch oil giant Shell) to provide partial funding for the project. In addition to Shell's funding, the initiative will also receive support from the California Energy Commission to the tune of a $950,000 grant from the Electric Program Investment Charge Program (EPIC).

The city anticipates long-term savings in the neighborhood of $6 million in energy costs over the next 25 years through the implementation of these microgrids and represents a significant stride towards their 2035 goal of achieving green energy power for all their municipal buildings. Through the use of these green energy solutions and by putting a priority on sustainability, San Diego continues to showcase it's commitment to building a greener future for the Southern California communities.

What exactly are solar microgrids, and how can they benefit San Diego?

Solar panel close up

Energy systems known as "solar microgrids" work independently of the main power grid and provide reliable backup power during emergencies. As renewable energy, these microgrids have become increasingly popular for reducing carbon emissions in San Diego and combating the high energy costs of traditional electric providers.

The Elliot solar microgrid at UC San Diego is one such great example that uses a combination of solar panels and solar battery storage to create and store energy. This ensures that essential services like emergency shelters and the distribution of supplies continue during longer terms of unexpected outages. Another project at UC San Diego provides energy backup to local elementary schools and Madison High School so that they can remain functional during a power outage.

Microgrids that employ a combination of solar panels and battery storage play a crucial role in reducing dependence on the traditional energy grid and achieving lower emissions. Projects in additional schools like Bell Middle School, Canyon Hills High School, and Jean Farb Middle School provide backup power and contribute to a greener future. Additionally, they can also benefit disadvantaged communities, such as the Southcrest Recreation Center and Campo Kumeyaay Nation Medical Center, as well as critical facilities like Tierrasanta Medical Center and Cal Fire White Star Station.

Solar panel under a blue sky

What's Next for Microgrids

The future looks bright for microgrids as they gain momentum as an innovative green-energy solution. Their ability to provide reliable local power during outages and protect against grid disruptions has implications in both rural and urban settings. And as the technology continues to advance and costs are inevitably lowered, we can hope to see even greater integrations with renewable energy sources like microgrid frameworks.

There are several key microgrid projects to watch out for in 2023 and beyond including projects by the US military at Camp Lejeune and at all army bases. Furthermore, expanding microgrids is expected to encourage increased collaboration between the public and private sectors. This will involve governments, energy companies, and technology providers working together to develop new financing models and regulatory frameworks that will encourage more widespread deployment of microgrids. By taking a collaborative approach, more communities will be able to adopt microgrids as a means of achieving their sustainability objectives and improving their energy resilience; achieving their sustainability objectives and improving their energy resilience.

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