In the face of increasingly severe wildfire seasons and the California utilities’ Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS), the City of Camarillo is joining many other municipalities in seeking the economic, environmental, and resilience benefits of solar-driven microgrids. Last month, the Camarillo City Council unanimously approved moving forward with the design of Hybrid Microgrids at five City facilities: City Hall, the Corporation Yard, Camarillo Public Library, Police Station, and Wastewater Treatment Plant. The microgrid at the Camarillo Public Library will be designed with solar + storage only, while the other four sites will employ a hybrid design of solar + storage + diesel.
How we got here: In February 2020, the city engaged the Clean Coalition, a Santa Barbara–based nonprofit, and TRC Companies to conduct a solar + storage microgrid feasibility study for the aforementioned sites. The study, which assessed the feasibility of standalone solar + storage for each of the five sites compared to using only diesel generators, found that the most feasible and economic solution would be hybrid systems that incorporate solar, storage, and diesel generation at four of the five sites.
“The study made it clear that Hybrid Solar Microgrids are not only feasible but also economically viable,” said Greg Ramirez, Camarillo City Manager. “Implementing these cost-effective hybrid solutions represents a big step toward meeting both City and regional sustainability goals.”
How it will work: The solar + storage systems recommended in the study will keep the sites online during short-duration outages, with diesel generators reserved for use as backup only when needed during extended outages. Additionally, the microgrids will reduce the cumulative carbon footprint of the five sites by approximately 88 percent. Solar + storage only was recommended for the Camarillo Public Library, which does not need to be kept online during an extended power outage but can benefit from solar + storage backup, as available, and utility bill savings.
Savings? Over the anticipated 30-year life of the projects, the microgrids are designed to achieve zero net energy and yield utility bill savings through reduced demand and energy charges at all five facilities. Savings will depend on which financing option the City chooses — a City-owned model, or a power purchase agreement (PPA), in which a third party would own and operate the systems.
Furthermore, the Camarillo City Council approved pursuing grant funding for the project, including an opportunity from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which recently announced a nationwide grant of up to $50 million per applicant for projects such as microgrids and generators that mitigate risks from natural disasters.
— Solar Builder magazine