The Future of Power Resilience in the Face of Disaster

by Anna Gretz
January 26, 2018
Home Battery

Here's how Energy Storage can keep the lights on:

Utilities are being battered, repeatedly, by the high winds of hurricanes, the freezing blast of polar vortices, and the silent but potentially deadly offense of cyber attacks. It’s been a rough year, but energy storage batteries have shown up in an important way. In a world where natural disasters certainly aren’t settling down anytime soon, utility companies are looking for a more reliable system for keeping power up, and keeping people connected. They’re looking to energy storage.

There has been some impressive solar + storage work done already, paving a way for a more distributed and resilient future. The Blue Lake Rancheria Microgrid, which went live mid-2017, is a successful example. In the case of this Northern California Native American reservation, Humboldt State University, Siemens, and Idaho National Lab worked together to decentralize the reservation’s energy sources, creating a microgrid powerhouse to provide both residential and commercial customers with uninterrupted, reliable energy.

“With the help of our state, academic, technology, federal, and utility partners, this microgrid project has fulfilled the Tribe’s aggressive energy security, economic and environmental guals,” said Jana Ganion, the Tribe’s Sustainability Director. “We have proven we can efficiently deploy the fiscally-responsible solar and storage sources of energy, create clean energy jobs, and transition away from fossil fuels at a brisk and feasible pace.”

Here’s how they did it: REC Solar designed and built a 500-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system, and hooked it up to a 950 kWh Tesla battery storage system. Siemens Spectrum Power Microgrid Management System software manages the solar + storage partnership, using clean, free energy from the sun, and storing power for when the sun goes down, creating a seamless, reliable energy system. If going totally resilient and going totally green wasn’t enough, the tribe will likely save over $200,000 in energy costs every year, as well as creating 10 percent amore clean energy jobs. Not to mention the 150 tons of carbon per year that won’t be released into the environment. It’s a win-win-win.

“At its core, this microgrid is an example of motivated governments investing in distributed grid improvements and low-carbon energy in a novel and replicable way,” said Arla Ramsey, Blue Lake Rancheria’s Vice Chair.

Rob Hovsapian, the Power & Energy Systems manager at Idaho National Laboratory added, “This project demonstrates how national laboratory assets can be leveraged as part of a diverse partnership to reduce risks and build resilient community microgrids.”

The key to the successful resilience of this project comes from both energy storage, and some smart power management. Siemens software can predict the power needs of the community, and manage the solar generation and distribution, taking into account weather data and load history. When the grid is up, the Tribe can reduce their peak loads, and optimize their energy to relieve pressure on the grid. When the grid goes down, the microgrid will essentially step in and take over energy production, seamlessly providing clean, economical energy.

The project at Blue Lake Rancheria is a prime example of how solar and storage can work together to provide energy security. But what about when there’s already been a security breach? Hurricane Sandy assaulted the Jersey coast, bringing with it unprecedented threats to the power system. Public Service Electric & Gas’s (PSE&G) Energy Strong Program put $1.22 billion to work, making sure it doesn’t happen again.

A major investment in utility protection against severe weather damage assures the Jersey Coastline that at least 123 hospitals involved in the project will not lose power in the case of another weather disaster, along with 460k other electric customers in the area. The majority of the money set aside for the project went toward flood-proofing switching stations, and modernizing gas mains… but some argued that more of the funding should have gone toward more resilient power sources and a more distributed grid, as in the case of Blue Lake.

S&C Electric latest data agrees that more distributed grid resources need to be hooked up in order to adequately address reliability concerns. After S&C surveyed its customer base, 25 percent reported that they experienced monthly power outages, as the power grid system currently stands.

One vastly underused resource is the already-standing distributed network of home batteries, specifically across the California landscape. The growing unconnected-network of solar batteries in the residential sector could potentially compose an essential component of a smart, distributed grid with some ground work and participation. We hope that the future of energy resilience will include a grass-roots effort to team up with utility companies to help make our power systems more secure, together.

But homeowners don’t need to wait for this day to come--the time for personal energy security is already here. In-home solar-plus-energy storage systems are already a viable, economical option for homes seeking energy security, and Swell believes that everyone should have the opportunity to protect their home from a grid outage.

That’s why Swell developed EnergyShield, the world’s first solar + storage energy security plan. To make sure everyone can access the peace of mind that comes with back-up power, EnergyShield plans start at just $1 a day.

Interested in being part of California’s more distributed energy future? Get more information on EnergyShield here, and join the distributed energy revolution.