Microgrids Help Integrate
Renewable Energy and
Improve Community Resiliency
SDG&E is committed to modernizing the power grid to integrate more clean energy, enhance reliability and improve safety. Microgrids, basically mini power grids, use technologies such as energy storage to provide power to specific communities/neighborhoods if an outage occurs on the larger grid.
The Borrego Springs Microgrid is a Glimpse into the Future
In 2013, SDG&E installed America’s first utility-scale microgrid to provide community resiliency to the remote desert town of Borrego Springs, which is connected to the larger grid by a single transmission line. The town is home to more than 2,700 residents who experience extreme heat and monsoonal rains, which can impact energy service. The microgrid helps keep critical facilities such as fire stations or schools energized during adverse or high-fire risk weather conditions that necessitate a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS).
The Borrego Springs microgrid uses smart grid technology—including local power generation, local energy storage, and automated switching—to create a more robust, resilient grid that can dynamically react to changing environmental and system conditions. The Borrego Springs Microgrid is connected to the smart grid, but can disconnect and function independently during emergencies, supplying vital electricity to the local community through its onsite resources.
SDG&E is currently working to upgrade the Borrego Springs Microgrid to operate with 100% clean energy, which is abundant thanks to two local solar farms and ample customer rooftop systems. SDG&E is also working to turn the current excess solar energy generated in Borrego Springs to hydrogen, which can be stored on-site as energy for up to eight hours. An electrolyzer will produce hydrogen when solar energy is abundant on the local circuit and a fuel cell will convert the hydrogen to electricity when needed by customers to strengthen electric service reliability and community resiliency.
The Borrego Springs microgrid offers a powerful example of what new Smart Grid technology can do. When this experimental project was used during an actual power emergency, it gave us and our customers a glimpse of a possible “utility of the future”—one in which the grid itself can respond to outages by routing and restoring power where it’s most needed, bringing vital energy to residents and quite possibly saving lives in the process.
SDG&E is leveraging lessons learned at Borrego Springs to build more microgrids in high-fire threat districts across the company’s service territory.