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The Goleta Load Pocket Community Microgrid (GLPCM) will showcase the power system of the future. The Goleta Load Pocket, a disaster-prone, transmission-vulnerable 70-mile stretch of Southern California coastline, provides the perfect opportunity for a comprehensive Community Microgrid that will bring the area an unparalleled trifecta of economic, environmental, and resilience benefits. A Community Microgrid can island from the larger grid during a power outage — whether it’s caused by a natural disaster, a PSPS, or any other event — providing indefinite renewables-driven backup power for critical community facilities such as fire stations and emergency shelters. During regular grid operations, the GLPCM will continue providing the benefits of clean local energy to the community.
The Goleta Load Pocket (GLP) spans 70 miles of Southern California coastline, from Point Conception to Lake Casitas, encompassing the cities of Goleta, Santa Barbara (including Montecito), and Carpinteria.
The GLP lies at the end of the grid and is completely grid-dependent, generating very little of its own power. The area gets most of its power from just one set of transmission lines that are hung on the same transmission towers and routed through 40 miles of mountainous terrain — making the GLP highly transmission-vulnerable.
Southern California Edison (SCE) has identified these transmission lines as being at risk for catastrophic failure from fire, earthquake, or heavy rains, which would cause a crippling, extended blackout of weeks or even months.
To achieve indefinite renewables-driven backup power that provides 100% protection to the GLP against a complete transmission outage (“N-2 event”), 200 megawatts (MW) of solar and 400 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy storage needs to be sited within the GLP. This is highly achievable, representing only:
The GLPCM provides a unique opportunity to bring a disaster-prone region indefinite renewables-driven backup power — providing the area an unparalleled trifecta of economic, environmental, and resilience benefits. Significant efforts are being made to align appropriate stakeholders, including property owners, policymakers, community leaders, solutions providers, and the monopoly electric utility, Southern California Edison (SCE), toward this goal.
Webinar: Bringing unparalleled resilience to the Santa Barbara region via a Community Microgrid
In this webinar, Executive Director Craig Lewis provides an overview of the GLPCM and its goals, discusses why we need a Community Microgrid in the GLP, and covers the policies and market mechanisms needed to proliferate Community Microgrids.
The Goleta Load Pocket Community Microgrid provides a unique opportunity to bring resilience to the region with indefinite renewables-driven energy for critical emergency response and recovery facilities — while building back right in areas damaged by recent wildfires and debris flows. This deployment of clean local energy will showcase the grid of the future and will provide economic, environmental, and resilience benefits to the community.
An economic analysis conducted by the Clean Coalition shows significant benefits of to the GLP over 20 years from adding scalable blocks of 10 MW of solar, 20 MWh of energy storage, or — the most cost-effective and resilient solution — a combination of solar+storage.
The first building block for the GLPCM
In December 2017, the month-long Thomas Fire burned over 300,000 acres and devastated parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, within the Goleta Load Pocket. On January 9, 2018, in just five minutes, half an inch of rain fell over the destabilized hillsides, resulting in a debris flow of boulders, trees, and over 15 feet of mud in some locations — traveling downhill at 20 miles per hour.
Both the fire and the subsequent debris flow demonstrate the need for energy resilience in this disaster-prone region. The Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative will provide that much-needed renewables-driven resilience to critical community facilities in Montecito and will showcase the benefits of Community Microgrids for communities around the world.
The first microgrids for the GLPCM, within the Montecito Upper Village, are currently going through an RFP process, with construction expected to start sometime in 2020.
In December of 2019, the SBUSD unanimously approved an ambitious initiative with the Clean Coalition and Sage Energy Consulting to stage solar-driven microgrids and electric vehicle charging infrastructure (EVCI) at schools throughout the District. The microgrids will feature solar and energy storage that can provide long-duration resilience, along with EVCI that supports District staff and students during the day — and provides overnight charging options for neighbors who have challenges installing electric vehicle chargers where they live.
The Clean Coalition and Sage Energy will conduct feasibility analyses for solar-driven microgrids and EVCI at all 18 SBUSD sites, and as determined to be feasible, follow by designing and executing a request for proposal (RFP) process to select a developer to build, own, and operate the microgrids under a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA). The aim is to contract the developer by June 2020.
Image: Solar parking canopies shading school buses at Analy High School, a Sage Energy site in the West Sonoma County Union High School District.
Gas lines can add fuel to wildfires. And after a disaster, it can take 30 times longer to restore gas service than electricity.
Gas peaker plants are not clean, safe, or resilient. In addition, the Clean Coalition has shown that Community Microgrids powered by solar+storage can cost-effectively replace new gas peaker projects.
Diesel generators are heavy polluters, with generally only enough fuel to maintain power backup for two days — and replenishing diesel during a major disaster is not always possible.
In 2015, SCE deployed about 80 MW of diesel generators at three substations to provide backup power to the GLP; that could be completely replaced and more by the 200 MW of solar and 400 MWh of energy storage needed to bring full resilience to the area.
Promoting local renewable energy resources in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties
The Clean Coalition is proud to be part of Clean Energy 805, a group working in the Goleta Load Pocket area to increase community awareness, identify potential sites for energy development, and support clean energy innovation.
An example of how a Feed-In Tariff (FIT) will help create more clean local energy projects in the GLP is the Direct Relief Microgrid.
Direct Relief, one of the largest disaster recovery and supply nonprofits in the world, needed a microgrid to ensure that their Goleta headquarters never loses electricity. Net energy metering (NEM) and other behind-the-meter constraints limited Direct Relief to 320 kilowatts of solar, even though its built environments can support almost four times that amount of solar. While NEM works well for residential solar installations, this example illustrates that it is not an effective mechanism for most commercial-scale sites, whose electric load is often smaller than their generating capacity.
A Solar Siting Survey produced by the Clean Coalition shows that the Direct Relief site has 1,133 kilowatts (kW) of total solar siting potential. This breaks down to 320 kW of existing solar, 427 kW of additional rooftop solar, and 386 kW of solar on the site’s parking lot.
A FIT would allow Direct Relief to make better use of this space by deploying more solar+storage, so the facility could keep more of its load online for longer during an outage, while also adding to the overall needed local energy generation that would provide resilience to the entire GLP.
In the fall of 2019, Direct Relief made its headquarters available to anyone who lost power during a PSPS, allowing residents to charge their phones, computers, portable batteries, and other devices. The nonprofit would be able to serve the community even better with more solar+storage.
In addition to moving forward with the GLPCM, the Clean Coalition has also begun to focus on the northern portion of Santa Barbara County, which shares the GLP’s need for resilience — and also needs new generation sources to bolster the region for the impending closure of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in 2025. The Strauss Wind Energy Project (SWEP), which the Clean Coalition supported along with numerous other parties, will provide the backbone of the energy resilience needed in the North County, reducing reliance on vulnerable long-distance transmission lines by introducing significant local energy resources. The SWEP, which will enable the same amount of energy generation that is anticipated across hundreds of sites for the GLPCM, offers the perfect opportunity to stage a North County Community Microgrid.
Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS), Southern California Edison’s last-resort public safety measure to mitigate wildfire risk, are becoming more common, leaving more critical community facilities without power within the GLP. The on-site diesel generators these facilities rely on now are noisy and dirty — and they generally have only enough fuel on hand to power a site for two days.
California has resolved to reach 100% clean electricity by 2045. Goleta has committed to 100% renewable electricity for all municipal facilities and community-wide electricity supply by 2030.
It’s time to live up to this promise, and to realize our clean energy future.
For a comprehensive Community Microgrid
In October 2018, the Clean Coalition’s Craig Lewis and Gregory Young presented on what this opportunity could mean for the Goleta Load Pocket.
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