Santa Cruz Tech Beat


California Town Tests New Model for Microgrids

By Jeff St. John

October 13, 2020 — Gonzales, CA

(Photo above: Gonzales’ project could serve as a model for California municipalities. Source: City of Gonzalez)

New $70 million microgrid will provide reliable, round-the-clock power at competitive rates and overcome a grid-upgrade bottleneck.

In California’s Salinas Valley, the small city of Gonzales is planning a $70 million microgrid to provide a business park with round-the-clock reliable power at cheaper than utility rates, and overcome a grid upgrade bottleneck that would otherwise stifle its economic development plans. 

If it works, the unusual combination of a newly formed municipal utility, large electricity customers as anchor tenants, and a microgrid developer to fund and manage the solar, battery and natural-gas-powered system could provide a new statewide model for towns and cities looking for reliable and clean energy options. 

That’s how Brian Curtis, CEO of Concentric Power, views the Gonzales Agricultural and Industrial Microgrid project. The “multi-customer municipal utility energy services agreement” announced this week could solve many of the more complex barriers to microgrid development in California, he said. 

“It leapfrogs some of the barriers and challenges that have been experienced in the market, not the least of which is interconnection and utility-side upgrades,” he said. “We think we’ve found a pretty elegant way to design with those constraints in mind.” 

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