Downtown Santa Monica; Downtown Santa Monica;

Santa Monica Microgrid, Santa Monica, California

Developing a multi-user microgrid to provide clean and reliable power to the City of Santa Monica

The City of Santa Monica, often recognized for its climate friendly policies, embarked on a microgrid project to incorporate renewable energy generation, storage, and electric vehicle charging. The City received a $1.5M grant from the California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge to design and implement the microgrid.

Arup is the lead consultant to the City of Santa Monica in the development of the microgrid project, which will provide clean, reliable power to the City Yards municipal facility and potentially incorporate adjacent sites, including commercial development, transit use, and museums. Aligning efforts with the City Yards redevelopment, Arup conducted an 18-month study and produced a multi-user microgrid feasibility analysis, examining socioeconomic, financial, and technical factors, as well as the knowledge transfer plan for the City. The study is an important step to determining the standards for microgrid development in California, providing necessary stepping stones for local governments, financial entities, regulatory agencies, and other partners to work out operational challenges as well as identifying major hurdles and barriers to deployment.

Project Summary

$4.6M of benefits in a 25-year period through system optimization

1.2MWsolar photovoltaic

7.2MWh electrical energy storage

Pursuing ambitious energy goals

The microgrid, envisioned to be a state-of-the-art electric power-generating storage and management system, intends to achieve bold energy goals including driving zero net energy use during normal operations. This will offer a low-carbon energy solution to the City, providing flexibility for future expansion and achieving their goals in a cost-effective way. 

The 14.7-acre City Yards site houses some of the City’s most critical services, including “back of house” trash collection, facilities and street maintenance, fire department maintenance, and traffic operations. To ensure that these critical services remain operational even during utility company power outages (also known as “island mode”), Arup evaluated a range of options for maintaining full and part load operations at the site across a range of periods. The potential for the microgrid to also provide power to first responders during major events was also considered. 

Microgrid site map Microgrid site map

Optimizing the microgrid

For the base scenario, which integrates City Yards, the microgrid was optimized with 1.2MW of solar photovoltaic and 7.2MWh of electrical energy storage. With this capacity, the system is able to meet the use case for the microgrid required by the City.

The analyses also indicated that more dynamic utility rates and incentives are required to bridge the gap between project costs and system benefits. When the system was dispatched against a real-time rate that reflected marginal costs, the microgrid provided $4.6M in net benefits over 25 years.

Possibility for future expansion

For future expansion scenarios, potentially for a Bergamot Station Arts District masterplan and the existing Metro maintenance facilities, the average load and energy consumption are substantially increased. To address this increase in energy consumption and satisfy aggregate demand, biogas fuel cells were included in the planning.