Image: Pacific Gas & Electric
Tesla Megapacks in the Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid (RCAM) have been a lifesaver for critical infrastructure following the Humboldt Quake and winter storms in California. The manufacture’s energy storage batteries have once again proved their necessity and reliability.
The Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid (RCAM) recently lived up to its description as “a lifeline” for Humboldt County and the North Coast during weeks of natural disasters and emergencies, Pacific Gas & Electric reported. Immediately after the 6.4 magnitude earthquake at the end of last year, thousands of consumers in the Humboldt area lost power. However, RCAM continued to supply power to its 19 customers, including two of the region's critical facilities, the Arcata-Eureka Airport and the adjacent U.S. Coast Guard Air Base.
The fully renewable microgrid automatically and smoothly went offline when power lines serving the area were cut off by an earthquake. Using power stored in local batteries, the Tesla Megapacks-based microgrid became an independent grid segment, which in this instance kept the power flowing to the airport and air base for nearly 15 hours, while the power remained off for much of the surrounding community.
“RCAM picked up seamlessly when power went out in the county following the earthquake, and despite the outage occurring at more or less the worst possible hour of the year — just after evening peak battery discharge, the second shortest day of the year and one day before the winter solstice, with bad weather — it ran smoothly for nearly 15 hours,” said Marc Marshall, principal engineer at Schatz Energy Research Center.
Winter storms hit California in late December and early January, and RCAM proved its reliability again, powering objects several times, including an eight-hour stretch when power went out in the area due to severe weather.
“RCAM is able to respond to a variety of hazards, provide flexibility to system operators, and enhance local resilience. Imagine a future with more solutions like this throughout our most vulnerable communities. RCAM is the model, and PG&E’s Community Microgrid Enablement Program is designed to enable that future,” said PG&E's Aaron August, vice president, utility partnerships and innovation.
RCAM is California's first multi-user microgrid powered by 100% renewable energy. It was developed and operated in a first-of-its-kind partnership between the County of Humboldt, PG&E, the Schatz Energy Research Center at Cal Poly Humboldt, Schweitzer Engineering Labs, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA), Tesla, Inc., The Energy Authority, and TRC. RCAM was commissioned and entered service in June 2022.
“RCEA is the local government owner-operator of the microgrid generation system and while we didn’t expect such rigorous real-world testing this winter, the system exceeded expectations. During a significant earthquake and multiple major storms, the microgrid reliably delivered power during grid outages so that our regional airport and coast guard could focus on their core missions. RCEA will continue efforts to prepare our region for future challenges and help our essential services to stay online when they are most needed,” said Dana Boudreau, Director of Infrastructure Planning and Operations, Redwood Coast Energy Authority.
The clean energy microgrid features a 2.2-megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic array that is DC-coupled to a 2.3-MW (9 megawatt-hours) battery energy storage system, comprised of three Tesla Megapacks. It also includes a microgrid control system, with protection and isolation devices that interfaces directly with PG&E’s distribution control center.
During standard operations, RCEA uses the microgrid to generate clean energy for the North Coast and participates in the California Independent System Operator wholesale energy markets, including the day-ahead, real-time, and ancillary services markets. The batteries store solar energy during the day and release it to the grid as needed in the evening and during peak demand. During emergencies, the microgrid becomes an independent network segment managed by PG&E, maintaining airport flight service and rescue operations.
© 2023, Eva Fox | Tesmanian. All rights reserved.
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About the Author
Eva Fox joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover breaking news as an automotive journalist. The main topics that she covers are clean energy and electric vehicles. As a journalist, Eva is specialized in Tesla and topics related to the work and development of the company.