California announces $26.5m in funding for microgrids

The US state of California is backing more impetus on low-carbon energy resources with a $26.5m funding announcement.

The Green Tech Grid website reports that the California Energy Commission has issued a programme opportunity notice seeking applicants that can ‘incorporate clean, low-carbon energy resources with energy storage and on-site energy management’ to help meet the state’s carbon reduction and renewable energy goals.

CEC’s notice sets aside $6m for projects that connect plug-in electric vehicles, with the remaining $20.5m reserved for two groups. The first is ‘low-carbon-based microgrids for critical facilities’ such as hospitals and fire stations. This category would appear to include more room for combined heat and power and natural-gas-fired backup generators, although the CEC demands that all projects must meet the Department of Energy’s standards of having 20% lower emissions than a comparatively sized diesel generator.
The second group, ‘high-penetration renewable-based microgrids’, is defined as including projects that can incorporate ‘high amounts (up to 100%) of renewable energy to meet the facility/community load while avoiding adverse grid impacts, through the use of a microgrid controller/energy management system’.

CEC’s proposal comes with some key requirements, including the ability to disconnect from the grid and self-power for at least three hours. All projects must also deliver on-site power ‘from renewable resources integrated with electric storage and demand response, to the extent feasible and cost effective’. CEC also wants projects to encapsulate resilience against the impact of climate change.

The CEC’s grants only require partners to provide 25% of the grant amount as matching funds, compared to the more common 50% match requirement, which means less private investment is at stake.

Finally, ‘microgrid technologies must be capable of being made commercially available at the end of the project (i.e., sold, leased, or licensed to the general public), in keeping with the intent of this solicitation to advance technologies towards large-scale deployment’, the CEC states. Applications for the grant programme are due in November, with selected projects slated to begin work in 2015.à‚ 

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