The City of Santa Monica, Calif., recently received a $1.5 million grant to plan and design a microgrid that will incorporate renewable energy (including solar), combined heat and power, small-scale waste-to-energy, energy storage and electric vehicle charging.


The grant came from the California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC), which is set up to fund innovative clean-energy technologies and approaches that bring clean-energy ideas to market.


Santa Monica’s grant stems from the commission’s EPIC Challenge, launched earlier this year, in which teams composed of private and government entities competed against each other to demonstrate innovative strategies that could become models to accelerate the development of zero-net-energy communities. 


Santa Monica’s microgrid is being designed as a 25-acre, “advanced energy community.” Multiple buildings, both public and private, on contiguous properties will be connected to the microgrid.


The core will be the 14.7-acre City Yards Project, which houses several municipal departments, including as water/waste operations, fire rescue and vehicle fleet maintenance.


Project designers will then identify ways to “scale up” the microgrid, so that it can expand beyond the City Yards Project. One possible future participant will be a 105-unit mobile-home park that the city leases to tenants. Many of these units already have solar panels.


Another may be a 5.8-acre art center, which features an art gallery, hotel, retail, restaurant and cultural performance spaces.


Besides the specific benefits of the Santa Monica microgrid, the project team hopes that the project will provide a model that others can use to overcome concerns about upfront costs.