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Liberty Utilities plans solar + storage microgrid for wildfire mitigation in NWA plan

BoxPower_utility_DeeringAK
Sagehen Creek Field Station will provide wildfire mitigation through a solar+storage microgrid. Shown here, a similar BoxPower utility microgrid project in Deering, Alaska.

Last week, BoxPower announced that Liberty Utilities will be using its system to set up a microgrid at a remote mountain research station. The companies said the project will save millions by replacing high fire-risk distribution lines with a containerized solar + storage microgrid.

The project is the result of a request-for-offers issued by Liberty Utilities for a wildfire-mitigation solution to avoid costly replacement of the transmission lines that serve Berkeley University’s Sagehen Creek Field Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California.

The 20-kW, 68-kWh non-wired alternative (NWA) system will use propane for back-up. The site presented unique engineering challenges, requiring alterations for heavy snowfall and a climate controlled BoxPower container. This also marked BoxPower’s first project in its home county of Nevada County. Previous projects include disaster relief in Puerto Rico and remote medical clinics.

It would have cost Liberty Utilities about $3 million to harden the 4-mile distribution line that serves the Sagehen Creek Field Station. BoxPower’s solar+storage system with propane back-up will allow the utility de-energize the lines in summer, and eventually year-round. This will allow the lines to be permanently de-energized at approximately a quarter of the cost, a savings of over $2 million dollars, according to BoxPower.

BoxPower cofounder and CFO Anderson Barkow observes. “Non-wired alternatives will be a strong part of the future energy mix for utilities as the cost of maintaining, hardening, and building lines continues to increase, while the cost of microgrids continues to decrease. Utility sales are a major piece of BoxPower’s vision with a portfolio of similar projects currently in the works.”

In partnership with New Sun Road, the system includes real-time monitoring, remote diagnostics, automated alert and reporting. This complete site management tool also enables peak demand reduction, time-of-use optimization, data consolidation and aggregation for resale, as well as virtual power plant (VPP) capabilities.