Improving Safety and Reliability: PG&E Developing New Remote Grid Systems to Replace Overhead Powerlines
By Paul Doherty
Today (Aug. 11), PG&E announced an expansion of its remote grid program, including progressing four new Standalone Power Systems in 2022 and deploying a standardized monitoring and control platform that will help it scale the program to more than 30 systems by 2026.
A Standalone Power System (or remote grid) is expected to provide the same or better levels of electric reliability using locally sited solar, batteries, and back-up generators as a permanent alternative to traditional energy infrastructure such as poles and powerlines. Remote grids meet customer needs with a significantly lower risk of fire at lower lifetime costs.
Collectively, the following four new Standalone Power Systems allow PG&E to remove 4.5 miles of overhead distribution electric lines while enabling five customers to continue receiving safe, reliable, affordable, low-carbon, and wireless energy:
- Two wireless systems near Paskenta, Calif., in Tehama County, allowing PG&E to remove 2 miles of overhead power lines, each serving one customer meter;
- One wireless system near Mariposa, Calif., in Mariposa County, allowing PG&E to remove 1 mile of overhead power lines, serving two customer meters; and
- One wireless system near Ahwahnee, Calif., in Mariposa County, allowing PG&E to remove 1.5 miles of overhead power lines, serving two customer meters
PG&E is working with Potelco, a Quanta West, LLC Company to build and construct the four new systems, which are expected to begin operations by early 2023 following construction and successful testing and commissioning.
PG&E also recently selected Richmond, Calif.-based New Sun Road’s Stellar Microgrid OSTM as the remote monitoring and control platform for its growing fleet of hybrid renewable Standalone Power Systems.
The Stellar platform enables PG&E to monitor and control remote grids via satellite and cellular connectivity, with capabilities for remote performance management, safety diagnostics, alarms, reporting, and automated refueling notifications. A Standalone Power System also features an integrated fire suppression system to protect the hardware and facility.
“PG&E has identified many locations where remote grids may be the most effective way of reducing wildfire risk and improving electric reliability in the communities we’re privileged to serve. As we expand the use of Standalone Power Systems, we now have a standardized platform for our operations, engineering, and asset management teams that will help us understand and manage real-time and historic system performance,” said Jason Glickman, PG&E’s Executive Vice President, Engineering, Planning and Strategy.
The four new systems under development this year will generally be modeled on the successful deployment of PG&E’s first operational remote grid in Briceburg, Calif. (Mariposa County), which was commissioned in June 2021 and is also managed by New Sun Road’s Stellar monitoring and control platform.
“New Sun Road’s Stellar platform will manage PG&E’s fleet of standalone systems, ensuring maximized solar usage and high reliability,” said Jalel Sager, New Sun Road CEO and co-founder. “Stellar remotely operates systems in over 23 countries, and we’re proud that our technology will now enable more resilient clean energy in California.”
Remote systems offer a new grid architecture
Throughout PG&E’s 70,000-square-mile service area, pockets of remote customers are served via long electric distribution lines that in many cases traverse through high fire-risk areas. Replacing these distribution lines with a reliable and low-carbon local energy source is an innovative option that has now become a feasible and, in many cases, preferred option for serving customers at the edges of the grid.
PG&E is one of the first energy companies in North America to deploy Standalone Power Systems as an alternative customer service offering to electricity provided through traditional grid infrastructure. Remote grids operate independently from the larger electric grid that delivers energy throughout the state, and they allow PG&E to remove overhead powerlines, significantly reducing wildfire risk and service interruptions in high fire-threat areas.
In Briceburg, for example, PG&E opted not to rebuild approximately 1.4 miles of distribution line that was destroyed in the 2019 Briceburg fire, and instead deployed the localized stand-alone power system. This hybrid renewable option reliably powers five customers without the need to rebuild the overhead line, and the system remained operational throughout the recent Oak Fire even as powerlines serving customers near the fire were de-energized for safety.
Potelco and New Sun Road join a growing ecosystem of microgrid vendors, including Grass Valley, Calif.-based BoxPower — which engineered the Briceburg remote grid — working alongside PG&E to design, deploy and scale standalone power systems as a service offering.
PG&E has identified multiple potential locations for additional remote grids, with sites currently being assessed in high fire-threat areas of Lake, Sonoma, and Tulare counties, all of which would be managed on New Sun Road’s Stellar platform.
For more information and to watch a video about PG&E’s Remote Grid program, visit pge.com/remotegrids
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.
PG&E Encouraging Eligible Customers To Sign Up for Monthly Energy Discount Program
PG&E Bolsters Safety by Implementing and Evolving Wildfire Mitigation Measures
'Climate Positive’ by 2050: PG&E’s New Climate Strategy Report Outlines Targets and Milestones on Path to Net Zero Emissions and Beyond
As California’s Traditional Fire Season Starts, PG&E Turns on Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings Across All High Fire-Risk Areas
Collaborating for a Clean Energy Future: California’s First 100% Renewable Multi-Customer Microgrid Is Now Operational