Cost- and energy-saving solar microgrids are coming to eight public buildings in San Diego—with a substantial boost from Shell New Energies, a subsidiary of the British oil giant.
San Diego has broken ground on the first the of eight microgrid projects it plans to install in a bid to “reduce the city’s carbon footprint, save taxpayer money, and increase community resiliency during power outages,” reports Smart Cities Dive.
Sited at fire and police stations, and at community and recreation centres, the microgrids are expected to cut the city’s energy costs by US$6 million by 2050. Contributing to these savings will be batteries that allow a site to store excess solar energy, then sell it back to the grid during peak hours when electricity prices rise.
The microgrids will also help nudge San Diego closer to its goal of having all municipal buildings run 100% on renewables by 2035.
With an eye to climate and community resilience, particularly during extreme weather events, the eight buildings were chosen for the city’s first microgrids on the understanding that they could slip easily into the role of shelters or supply distribution centres in times of crisis.
Gridscape, a California-based renewable energy provider involved with the projects, said microgrids have had limited uptake to date due to the significant up-front capital investment they require. “The high initial costs can deter potential investors and make securing financing challenging.”
Enter an entity with famously deep pockets. Shell New Energies “will develop, own and operate the microgrids,” Smart Cities Dive says. A city document shows [pdf] that the 25-year deal between San Diego and the Shell subsidiary was inked in July, 2021, before the parent company began its widely-reported shift away from renewable energy.
The California Energy Commission also stepped up with US$950,000 in grants for the microgrid project.