Demonstrating a renewable based microgrid for a critical facility at the Blue Lake Rancheria

Cal Poly Humboldt Sponsored Programs Foundation


Arcata, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

The project was completed in March 2018. The Blue Lake Rancheria renewable microgrid has demonstrated a robust, renewable-based microgrid system that provides costs savings for the facility during normal operation and successfully islanded during a grid outage. As a result of knowledge transfer and outreach activities, the microgrid project received the Federal Emergency Management Agency's 2017 Whole Community Preparedness Award and POWERGRID International's Project of the Year (2018) award for Distributed Energy Resource Integration, marking the first time that a non-utility won the award. The final report is available at:….

The Issue

California needs to make better use of locally available renewable energy to increase resiliency and address climate change impacts, such as increased fires, severe storms, and heatwaves. Microgrid demonstrations are needed to show that renewable based microgrids at critical facilities are able to disconnect from the grid and provide islands of stable, independent power using local renewable energy to maintain critical operations during emergencies.

Project Innovation

This project team developed and demonstrated a microgrid at an American Red Cross evacuation center. The microgrid included renewables and energy storage to bolster the resiliency of this critical support facility and the capability of the microgrid to power itself with a high penetration of local renewable resources.

Project Benefits

The project advanced microgrid technology by demonstrating a new microgrid controller and integrating a set of equipment that had not previously been combined in a microgrid setting. The project demonstrated the ability to integrate solar electric power with battery energy storage, conventional generators, and dispatchable demand into a microgrid to support a certified American Red Cross shelter, with an added benefit of relegating the existing fossil fueled generators to a deep backup role where they rarely run. A microgrid control system was successfully implemented using protection relays to provide safe and reliable microgrid operation. It was able to perform automated transitions from grid connected to islanded states in response to the state of the area electric power system.

Lower Costs


The solar PV array and battery storage system will lower annual energy purchases and also lower average peak demand by using onsite renewable energy resources resulting in a cost savings of approximately $160,000 per year.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

The microgrid reduces power purchased from the electric grid by using onsite renewables and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 158 metric tons CO2 per year compared to fossil fueled generation.

Greater Reliability


The microgrid is capable of supplying electric power indefinitely, even in the event of a utility grid outage increasing the resiliency of the Rancheria. The microgrid controller prevents uncontrolled export of energy to increase

Increase Safety


The microgrid increased the safety of the community by being able to provide electric power to a critical Red Cross emergency response center when the electric grid goes down during a disaster.

Key Project Members

Project Member

David Carter

Managing Research Engineer



Serraga Energy, LLC at Blue Lake Rancheria


Idaho National Laboratory


GHD, Inc.




Robert Colburn Electric Inc


Match Partners


Humboldt State University Foundation, Schatz Energy Research Center


Pacific Gas and Electric Company


Siemens Energy and Automation, Inc.


Tesla, Inc


Serraga Energy, LLC at Blue Lake Rancheria


GHD, Inc.


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