PG&E today unveiled its first fully renewable remote grid within its service area. The system at Pepperwood Preserve in Sonoma County consists of solar canopy and a battery energy storage system
As described in PG&E’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan, remote grids provide utility service using standalone local energy resources. Throughout PG&E’s 70,000-sq.-mile service area, there are remote customers served via long electric distribution lines that traverse high fire-risk areas. Replacing these distribution lines with a remote grid is an innovative option that can cost-effectively meet customer needs and reduce fire ignition risk.
The fully renewable remote grid at Pepperwood replaces 0.7 miles of overhead distribution line, eliminating the associated wildfire risk. The location was identified, designed, and deployed as part of PG&E’s system hardening work, which prioritizes powerlines based on elevated wildfire risk and geographic considerations. In addition to remote grids, PG&E’s system hardening efforts include undergrounding, installing stronger and more resilient poles, and replacing bare powerlines with larger, covered lines.
“Remote grids demonstrate PG&E’s ability to be tenacious and nimble in delivering customer solutions to stop catastrophic wildfires,” said Joe Bentley, Senior Vice President, Electric Engineering, PG&E. “The close collaboration between PG&E and our project partners on the remote grid at Pepperwood is a prime example of how we can innovate to serve local needs as we carry out critical wildfire mitigation work.”
Set in the idyllic Mayacamas Mountains within the traditional homeland of the Wappo people, Pepperwood Preserve is a 3,200-acre property and important refuge for more than 900 species of native plants and wildlife and was directly impacted by both the Tubbs and Kincade Fires. Pepperwood is a hub for climate monitoring, applied research, science education and wildfire resilience demonstration projects, such as the now extensive ALERTWildfire camera network. The new remote grid will power Pepperwood’s Bechtel House, which houses overnight visitors.
“Pepperwood regularly hosts researchers, policy-makers and philanthropists from around the world to learn about wildfire resilience innovation. We are delighted to partner with our clean energy leaders on PG&E’s first fully renewable remote grid in California,” says Lisa Micheli, President and CEO, Pepperwood Foundation. “As a research and education institution dedicated to showcasing best practices, we look forward to benefiting from this clean energy source and presenting it to visitors from near and far as part of a new wave of remote energy solutions.”
From the start, Pepperwood and Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) engaged with PG&E to vet the potential for a remote grid without any fuel-based backup generation. SCP performed an upfront energy audit in addition to consulting at key project milestones that helped establish how a solar-plus-storage system could be tailored to the customer needs at Pepperwood’s Bechtel House.
Under contract to PG&E, BoxPower designed, built and will maintain the remote grid at Pepperwood. The system includes a BoxPower SolarContainer featuring a battery energy storage system that was prefabricated at the BoxPower facility in Grass Valley before being transported to the site. The generation source is a canopy solar array. Construction of the system was completed in less than eight weeks and followed by a rigorous testing and commissioning process.
“We are proud to have designed and built not only PG&E’s first remote grid, but also their first 100% renewable standalone power system,” said BoxPower co-founder and CFO Anderson Barkow. “Reducing wildfire risk in areas like Pepperwood is critical for the surrounding communities and the native wildlife that collectively call this place home. This cost-effective approach to wildfire mitigation provides an excellent blueprint for implementation across potentially hundreds of remote sites.”
Under contract to PG&E, project partner Franklin Energy installed a targeted set of energy efficiency improvements at the house that are expected to reduce the possibility of outages during periods of low solar generation. Franklin Energy’s end-to-end scope included detailed energy modeling of the proposed efficiency improvements that in turn informed the remote grid system design. The new energy-efficient insulation, HVAC, and similar improvements have already contributed to reduced energy usage and increased comfort at the house.
The remote grid at Pepperwood will be PG&E’s fifth operational remote grid since 2021.
News item from Pepperwood