Schatz Energy Research Center

Redwood Coast Airport microgrid

An aerial view of the airport, taken from below an airplane wing.
Redwood Coast Airport

The Redwood Coast Airport (RCA) Renewable Energy Microgrid will provide clean electricity to Humboldt County and be a lifeline in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency. The county airport serves 50,000 flights per year, including commercial, private, and emergency medical flights, while the adjacent Coast Guard air station provides search and rescue for 250 miles of rural coastline — from the Mendocino-Sonoma county line to the California-Oregon border. Since roads into Humboldt County are frequently closed by fires and slides, energy security at the regional airport is crucial. In the event of a grid outage, the airport microgrid will allow flight service and rescue operations to continue without interruption.

An aviation survival technician is lowered from an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter during training. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read

The microgrid is being funded by a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission’s EPIC program, with $6 million in match funding from the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA). The RCA microgrid will support 18 electric accounts including the airport and Coast Guard station. As the first multi-customer microgrid in the Pacific Gas & Electric service territory, this project will provide a test bed for the policies, tariff structures, and operating procedures necessary to integrate microgrids into California’s electric grid. Lessons learned will help create a road map for microgrid interconnection across the state.

Major project elements

  • 2 MW photovoltaic array DC-coupled with a 2 MW, 8 MWh battery storage system
  • 250 kW net-metered photovoltaic system
  • microgrid control system that will interface with the utility power distribution control center
  • powerline reclosers with advanced control
  • electric vehicle charging stations capable of demand response
A diagram of the microgrid shows the arrays, battery storage, couplings, etc.

An important rationale for this project is to demonstrate a business case for microgrids. As the community choice aggregator for the Humboldt Bay area, RCEA will own the two photovoltaic (PV) arrays and battery storage. The larger PV array will be DC-coupled to the battery system, and will allow RCEA to generate renewable power to sell on the CAISO wholesale market. The smaller array will directly offset utility costs for the airport, in return for land leased to the project. The battery system will allow solar energy to be discharged during the evening peak of energy use — while simultaneously fulfilling a storage requirement mandated by the State of California.

Our contract with the California Energy Commission was signed in August of 2018. Project development in collaboration with our partners formally kicked off in January 2019. Construction and installation of equipment is slated to begin in May of 2020, with commissioning and full operation scheduled for December 2020.

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Partners

The Schatz Center is the prime contractor and lead technology integrator for this project. Partners include the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA), the County of Humboldt, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Schweitzer Engineering Labs, Tesla, Inc., TRC, and The Energy Authority.

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