Digital MagazineYear 2021

Building Resiliency: The Port of San Diego’s Microgrid Solution


The Port of San Diego was one of the first cargo terminals in the country to create a climate action plan, and the microgrid has been called the “crown jewel” of that plan.

Michael robinson – distributed solutions, EDF RENEWABLES

By Michael Robinson, Associate Director West, Distributed Solutions

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The Port of San Diego and Microgrid Solutions

The Port of San Diego is improving its resiliency and reducing its electricity bills with a microgrid solution that will also support achievement of its climate goals.

Microgrids are innovative, state-of-the art systems that integrate a distributed generation source (e.g., traditional fossil fuel backup generators, solar panels, or a combination of both) with batteries and intelligent controls to create a sophisticated, resilient system that reduces energy costs and GHG emissions while also providing reliable backup power.

In the event of a power outage, microgrids seamlessly provide full power to the facility as if the grid were still there, with no discernable interruption to operations – a feature that’s essential to strategic infrastructure like the Port of San Diego, which is designated as a Strategic Port.

The Port’s Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal (TAMT) houses Port-operated facilities that include security infrastructure, lights, offices, and a jet fuel storage system. The microgrid is a 700 kW / 2,400 kWh battery system that will manage energy produced by an array of solar panels for use during power outages. In addition to providing emergency backup power, it will reduce the Port’s electricity bills during grid-connected operations.

The Port of San Diego has an ongoing commitment to care for the environment of San Diego Bay and the surrounding waterfront and communities. It was one of the first cargo terminals in the country to create a climate action plan. Moreover, the microgrid has been called the “crown jewel” of that plan.

The microgrid will also support the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal Redevelopment Project. This, by helping to make the Port more modern, clean, and efficient. The TAMT’s microgrid will pair battery energy storage with solar; which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality at and around the Port.

The Port of San Diego’s microgrid has been called the “crown jewel” of its climate action plan

It’s important to note that energy storage doesn’t have to be paired with solar to benefit a facility’s operations. During regular grid-connected operations, batteries can charge from the grid at times of the day when power prices are low. At times of the day when electricity prices are high, the facility can save money by using energy-stored in the battery. Batteries will also reduce spikes in energy consumption; thus, lowering energy costs by reducing utility demand charges. Moreover, these are based on a facility’s highest 15 minutes of electricity usage in a given month.

Energy storage can also significantly improve the efficiency of new or existing backup diesel generators by reducing run time. Moreove, by allowing the generator to run at a steady rate. Thus, in turn, it will save money and lower GHG emissions by reducing fuel consumption.

However, if your facility does have solar, you should definitely think about enhancing it with a storage-based microgrid! In fact, in the event of a power outage; a standard solar array will turn off and stop producing power.

This safety feature prevents electricity from being delivered to an electrical grid that may be damaged. Because microgrids can be “islands” from the rest of the electrical grid. Besides, they make it possible to continue harnessing the power from your facility’s solar panels if there’s an outage.

Implications in our modern economy

 In our modern economy, a loss of power means business activity grinds to an abrupt halt; hence, it can result in significant costs; particularly if product is lost.

Almost every type of organization should consider installing a backup power system that uses a microgrid. In our modern economy, a loss of power causes business activity to grind to an abrupt halt; thus, resulting in significant costs – particularly if product is lost.

One study found that U.S. businesses lose more than $27 billion a year due to power outages; besides, even outages that only last a few hours can cost businesses an average of $10,000 to $20,000 per event. A different survey found that 19% of commercial and industrial customers lost $50,000 or more per outage; and, for another 18%, outages cost $100,000 or more per incident.[1]

In years past, when power outages were few and far between, relying solely on emergency backup generators was a viable solution – but today, outages are increasing in frequency and duration.

Proactive organizations are responding by developing resiliency strategies that also improve sustainability. Microgrids deliver a positive return on investment by reducing electricity bills during regular grid-connected operations and meeting your organization’s emergency power needs, all while reducing emissions.


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