Recently, the Cameron Corners Microgrid Project Team received an early present – in the form of two iron-salt flow batteries housed in giant metal shipping containers – not unlike the shipping containers used to transport merchandise across the world.
The batteries are a crucial component of a new microgrid designed to keep the community of Cameron Corners in the Campo area energized with renewable electricity during emergencies. In recent years, extreme weather fueled by climate change – high winds coupled with arid conditions – has required us to de-energize the circuit serving Cameron Corners from time to time.
About an hour’s drive east of San Diego, this backcountry community sits in a High Fire Threat District and has been impacted more than other areas by Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS), a tool of last resort to prevent wildfires.
State-of-the-Art and Zero-Emission
Powered by state-of-the-art batteries and a large onsite solar array, the Cameron Corners Microgrid is zero-emission and will be able to support 11 critical community facilities during PSPS. Facilities that the microgrid will back up include a health center, a library, a fire station, a school, two gas stations and a small retail strip, and critical telecommunications equipment. Cameron Corners residents are heavily dependent on these facilities to meet their basic needs because there are no major urban centers nearby.
“The shared community facilities will stay online if the local circuit is turned off. So everything they need will remain powered,” said Project Manager Melinda Kimble.
The installation of the batteries on December 10 was a significant milestone for the project team. The team has been eagerly waiting for the delivery of the batteries since June. Unfortunately, worldwide supply chain disruptions had caused production delays. The two newly installed batteries were transported by trucks from Oregon, where they were assembled. Two more deliveries of batteries are expected later this month and in January. A total of six batteries will be installed at the site.
It was thrilling and gratifying for Advanced Clean Technology Program Manager Don Balfour, who oversees several microgrid projects to see the first two batteries getting installed.
“The supply chain and COVID issues delayed the production of the batteries as the manufacturer made a strategic move to bring sourcing of parts from China back to the United States. This was just one of the many hurdles this project has faced and we are excited the batteries arrived today,” he said.
What is a Microgrid?
A microgrid is simply a miniature version of the traditional grid. As a self-sufficient energy system, a microgrid can operate independently of or in parallel to the larger grid to keep a pre-defined area powered when the larger grid suffers from disruptions or outages. Modern microgrids typically consist of distributed energy resources such as solar panels, energy storage, and sophisticated controls and switches that allow all the different microgrid components to operate seamlessly.
What Makes Cameron Corners a Cool Project?
The Cameron Corners Microgrid is one of four PSPS microgrids we built to strengthen community resilience and back up critical resources. The flow batteries being installed at this site are the first batteries of their kind to be installed for utility-scale use. These batteries have some unique attributes:
- Iron, salt and water are the primary components
- Wide operating range: 23℉ to 122℉
- Designed to last 25 years
When the microgrid is not in use, the batteries will be bid into the energy market managed by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to support grid reliability statewide.
The project team expects to complete the microgrid in the first quarter of 2022, months before the 2022 fire season.