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PG&E Wants 20 New Microgrids Before 2020 Wildfire Season

Mammoth California utility Pacific Gas & Electric is scrambling to get new microgrids in place at 20 of its power substations ahead of this year’s autumn wildfire season.

PG&E “wants to have the microgrids installed by June 1, 2020 or at the latest September 1, 2020,” Microgrid Knowledge reported last month. The systems, part of a larger, 716.9-megawatt procurement required by state regulators, “will be used to keep electricity flowing when the utility shuts down power lines that could spark wildfires during windy and dry weather.”

In an early December presentation to the state Public Utilities Commission, PG&E said the microgrids “are expected to keep power flowing to thousands if not tens of thousands of customers per substation during a power shutoff,” the industry publication adds. “The utility hopes to cut the number of customers that lose power by nearly one-third, compared to its October 29 ‘public service power shutoff’ (PSPS), the term California uses to describe de-energizing power lines so that they won’t spark wildfires.”

That shutdown hit 941,000 customers.

Beyond the 20 installations, PG&E said it would also help make it easier for customers to install their own microgrids.

In a webinar for potential providers, PG&E said it was looking for third parties that would either build new microgrids and hand them over, or own and operate them on the utility’s behalf. “PG&E said the projects must be able to provide power to customers for at least four to five consecutive days,” Microgrid Knowledge says. And “when the microgrids are not providing backup power, they must serve the power grid and help bolster its resilience. The microgrids also must have black start capability, meaning they can start up without relying on a charge from the grid.”