MARIPOSA COUNTY, California (KSEE/KGPE) – A remote area in the mountains of Mariposa county is getting its very own power plant.
This is near Briceburg — an area recently devastated by wildfire in 2019.
Here, long runs of power lines can pose a wildfire risk.
The “microgrid” powered by both solar and gas replaces traditional distribution lines as a way to reduce fire risk, safety shutoffs, and expenses.
PG&E spokesperson Denny Boyles says, “Lines that serve this area cross a high fire risk area. It’s already been affected by a wildfire. And when we looked at rebuilding the system for these homes we would have had to rebuilt the line through a high fire risk area and do the continual maintenance to make sure that line stayed safe and they did a cost analysis and decided this would be the ideal place for this microgrid.”
The handful of customers near Briceburg will be on their own self-contained “microgrid” and serviced by its own micro power plant running solar, batteries and propane. It’s made by BoxPower out of Grass Valley.
BoxPower cofounder and CEO Angelo Campus says, “We do some work in emergency response. We supply rapidly-deployable containerized microgrids. They are generally prefabricated and pre-installed into a shipping container so that all that the installation, fabrication and testing is done in a controlled warehouse environment. They can then be shipped to the site very quickly. By nature of that we do a lot of work in disaster relief.”
This is the first microgrid PG&E is using in Central California to help prevent an emergency. It’s expected to be less expensive and more reliable than extending power lines from the main grid. The microgrid will not be subject to public safety power shutoffs.
Campus says, “Providing 100% renewable energy is very difficult because solar conditions are inherently intermittent. They vary on a daily and annual basis. So we pair that with a propane generator. … 89% of the electricity will be generated from solar and roughly 10 or 11 percent will be delivered via a propane generator.”