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Blue Lake Rancheria Powers Microgrid for Self-Sufficiency and Savings

The Blue Lake Rancheria is saving about $200,000 annually on energy costs thanks to its 500-kilowatt solar array combined with battery storage.

In 2016, the northern California-based Tribe debuted its carbon-reducing microgrid that channels energy to the local utility grid. The Tribal Nation can operate independently of Pacific Gas & Electric, if the localy utility turns off. If regional power is interrupted, the Tribe’s energy source can feed electricity to its government buildings, casino, hotel and an emergency shelter.   

“We’re going to be able to provide critical infrastructure for really as long as we need it,” Jana Ganion, the Tribe’s sustainability and government affairs director, told Yale Climate Connections.

The Tribe partnered with Siemens to build the largest microgrid in Humboldt County that can power the entire 100-acre reservation. The “operator-free” software keeps it running continuously.

The Tribe has also been constructing a second, emergency back-up microgrid-within-a-microgrid, according to MicrogridKnowledge.com, at the Rancheria’s gas station-convenience store.

The backup microgrid is a vital emergency preparedness service in the rural region for energy, water, food, information technology (IT) and communications, and transportation.

“In an emergency a gas station-convenience store might be the only critical infrastructure that’s around…. We’ve seen during hurricanes and other disasters that gas stations can be taken out and that affects emergency responders, and that affects the ability of people to get diesel for their own generators at home, and keep their medicines cold — all of these things that actually could be solved with a resilient [microgrid] package for gas stations,” Ganion told MicrogridKnowledge.com.

The Tribe partially funded the initial microgrid through a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC). 

The Blue Lake Rancheria was designated a White House Climate Action Champions in 2016 when it debuted its microgrid. “The Tribe has implemented the ‘seven generations’ philosophy, where actions taken today will have a positive impact for seven generations to come,” states the U.S. Department of Energy. “This results in forward-thinking, long-term energy management and a clear focus on renewable, sustainable energy resources.”

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