Seattle City Light Microgrid Project Selected for Clean Energy Grant

A microgrid project by Seattle City Light is one of five recipients that will share $12.6 million in state clean energy grants announced today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

A microgrid project by Seattle City Light is one of five recipients that will share $12.6 million in state clean energy grants announced today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“Microgrids show promise for providing backup power during outages, increasing our community’s resiliency after a disaster and making it easier to integrate renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind,” City Light General Manager and CEO Larry Weis said. “We are grateful for this grant, which will help us develop a microgrid at a community emergency shelter and test its effectiveness.”

The $3.5 million City Light microgrid is planned to include a utility-scale battery system, solar panels and emergency generators located at a designated emergency shelter, such as a community center. The specific location has yet to be determined, but the utility intends to build the project where it can support more vulnerable members of the community in times of crisis. The grant will provide a portion of the funds for the project. Terms of the grant contracts have not been finalized yet.

During normal operations, the solar panels will charge the batteries and provide some of the power to operate the building. When the solar panels are not generating, the batteries can back up the delivery of electricity from City Light’s distribution grid or, during periods of high demand, they could be used to reduce the amount of energy City Light has to purchase to meet customer needs, holding down costs for all its customer-owners. After a storm, earthquake or other emergency, the solar panels, emergency generators and battery system can power a portion of the building even if damage to the distribution grid causes outages in the surrounding area.

“Projects like this demonstrate that Seattle is an innovative city with a forward leaning electric utility,” Mayor Ed Murray said. “I applaud City Light for its foresight and leadership in developing microgrids that could someday enhance the reliability of electricity service across our community.”

The other recipients are Snohomish Public Utilities District, Avista Utilities, Northwest Energy and Orcas Power and Light.

Here is the Governor’s news release announcing the grants:

Gov. Jay Inslee announced earlier this week $12.6 million in Clean Energy Fund grants to five utilities in Washington. The governor made the announcement in Seattle at the Northwest Regional Clean Energy Innovation Partnership Workshop hosted by the University of Washington and the Pacific Northwest National Lab. At the event, the governor joined U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell to discuss the Pacific Northwest’s role as an international leader in developing the technologies to power a growing 21st century clean energy economy.

The grants will fund projects proposed by Avista, Seattle City Light, Orcas Power and Light, Snohomish County Public Utility District and Energy Northwest. The utilities and their partners will match the state funding at a minimum ratio of 1 to 1.

“With these awards, our leading utilities will demonstrate how to integrate battery storage with solar energy and stand-alone energy systems, train the workforce to build and maintain these systems, and lead the industry into the clean energy future,” Inslee said.

The Clean Energy Fund strengthens Washington’s position at the forefront of a clean, low-carbon energy future. Through the fund, the state invests in technologies that save energy, cut costs, reduce emissions and create good-paying jobs.

“Gov. Inslee and the state of Washington continue to champion clean energy innovation. Driving innovation is at the core of how our country maintains its leadership in developing clean, low-carbon energy technologies,” said Moniz. “I was pleased to join the governor to highlight innovation, as the Department of Energy is an active partner with Washington and many other states to enhance the U.S. energy security, climate resilience and economic leadership.”

“We know the future will look different as new technologies continue to change the energy landscape. Today, customers are buying, installing and using distributed energy resources, and actually participating in the grid,” said Heather Rosentrater, Avista vice president of energy delivery. “We are committed to ensuring our system will be flexible enough to meet the changing expectations and future needs of consumers.”

PROJECT SUMMARIES

  • Avista of Spokane will pilot a “shared energy economy” model that allows various energy assets — from solar panels and battery storage to traditional utility assets — to be shared for multiple purposes, including system efficiency and grid resiliency. It will demonstrate how the consumer and utility can each benefit.
  • Seattle City Light will create a microgrid at a designated emergency shelter, powered by solar energy. During an emergency, this stand-alone power grid will keep fire stations, community centers and communication networks operating.
  • Orcas Power & Light will deploy a community solar system to extend the life of the island’s underwater electricity supply cable.
  • Snohomish Public Utility District will combine battery storage, microgrid and solar technologies, connecting this integrated technology to the electric vehicle fleet. It will demonstrate how to leverage batteries in cars to store and use renewable energy.
  • Energy Northwest will bring together its 28 utilities with labor leaders at IBEW Local 77, Quanta Services/Potelco and the UW Clean Energy Institute to create a battery and solar competency training facility in the Tri-Cities. This facility will prepare workers for clean energy jobs of the future.

Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to about 750,000 Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.