In December 2017, the Thomas Fire killed two people and burned 300,000 acres in the hillsides surrounding Santa Barbara, Calif. One month later, during a winter rain storm, the burnt slopes gave way to mudslides, which killed 23 people and damaged 400 homes. In the aftermath, local utilities have looked at new ways to deliver services that will better prepare the region for future disasters.
In February, the Montecito Fire Protection District agreed to enter into a memorandum of understanding to proceed with a unique community microgrid project. The project represents the first building block in the Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative, which is a joint effort of the Clean Coalition and the World Business Academy.
The initiative is designed to build a resilient solar plus storage community microgrid within the Santa Barbara County community of Montecito, a small unincorporated community of about 10,000 residents. The system will be powered by 70 kilowatts of solar and 175 kilowatt-hours of lithium-ion energy storage. The energy from the microgrid generation sites will be delivered to end users through power purchase agreements (PPAs).
The fire department microgrid is the first of several conceptually planned for Montecito. The Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative aims to build multiple community microgrids in the area, ensuring the continuous operation of critical and priority facilities in the event of future disasters.
The Montecito project is one of eight different configurations across the country that the Clean Coalition hopes to develop as demonstration community microgrids. Among other demonstration microgrids in California are the North Bay Community Resilience Initiative in Sonoma and Napa Counties, and the Valencia Gardens Energy Storage Project in San Francisco. In New York, projects include the Hunters Point Community Microgrid Project, and the Long Island Community Microgrid Project.