ENGIE North America has extended the scope of its microgrid offerings with the latest installation at the Santa Barbara Unified School District. The project includes 4.2 MW of solar across 14 district locations and six microgrids with 3.8 MWh of battery energy storage for backup power and peak demand charge reduction.
The project is expected to offset approximately 90% of the solar array sites’ energy use with renewable energy.
“The SBUSD solar microgrids will serve as a model for school districts and other entities anywhere, including how to finance them in a straightforward manner that minimizes upfront costs and risks to the district while also reducing the district’s electricity expenditure,” says Stefaan Sercu, managing director of Energy Solutions Americas at ENGIE. “It’s also important to note that communities can now benefit from state and federal funding for projects like these.”
“The scope for this program is one of the first for a school district in California,” states Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Hilda Maldonado. “This is a community that has been continually impacted by wildfires and subsequent power shutoffs, mudslides and other natural disasters. This project will be critical in the district’s efforts to preserve power where it can, as well as provide a fiscally responsible power insurance policy that will ultimately aid the entire community.”
After the 2017/18 Thomas Fire, Santa Barbara District staff began researching the feasibility of energy resiliency solutions to preserve critical operations during emergencies and power outages for the more than 15,000 students, faculty and staff. In December 2020, the board of directors unanimously approved the microgrid project owned, operated and maintained by ENGIE North America.
Through the project, the district is now equipped to provide the community with access to continuation of uptime even during utility grid outages and operate in Island Mode at six district sites maintaining service for critical refrigeration systems, priority communications and emergency staging areas systems.