Blue Lake’s Energy Microgrid a beacon during emergencies

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The electric microgrid at Blue Lake Rancheria started as a way to self-sufficiency, but became a beacon during a natural disaster.

“So the origins of Blue Lake Rancheria microgrid was really around their clean energy, electrification goals. So back in 2010, 2012, they adopted a pretty rigorous goal of zero carbon emissions by 2030. And the microgrid was one significant pathway to achieving those goals”, says Heidi Moore-Guynup, director of tribal governmental affairs. 

The microgrid integrates solar and battery storage to allow the rancheria campus to operate in tandem with California’s power grid, or cut itself completely off, like an island. 

“To some extent, we still are connected to the grid. and so what our technology enables us to do is to be able to make choices about when to disconnect, when to push energy back into the grid, when to complete the island from the grid”, Moore-Guynup says. 

After the 6.0 earthquake in late 2022, the rancheria was the only beacon of hope for those seeking gas and access to power for necessary medical equipment. 

“And so there were no, to our knowledge, there were no operable gas stations for quite some time. Ours was the only operable gas station. Our hotel got re-purposed, to be able to provide rooms for folks that needed critical, lifesaving medical devices like at home dialysis machines, CPAP machines, etc”, Moore-Guynup says. 

In 2017, FEMA recognized the microgrid for their emergency preparedness efforts.   

“So we’ve actually won a number of awards. So we’ve won the Obama White House Climate Action Champions Award. Which is great. And specifically for this microgrid project, we were the first in California to, design this technology, the, microgrid that is, the Humboldt County Airport that supports the airport and the Coast Guard, another essential critical, services in times of natural emergency, or natural disaster, is supported by that microgrid”, she says. 

The Blue Lake rancheria is looking to expand the project to other tribal nations, which would connect multiple solar microgrids together.