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New Microgrid Helps Chemehuevi Reservation Generate Reliability, Savings



Tribal leaders and dignitaries were on hand May 23 for the dedication of a new microgrid for the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe Community Center on the Chemehuevi Reservation in Lake Havasu.

Microgrids are small electrical systems that can work independently of the larger electrical grid. Energy is generated through solar panels, stored in batteries, and managed by an advanced energy management system.

The California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program, which supports clean energy research, funded the project.

“The Energy Commission is pleased to partner with the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe on this project that is intended to demonstrate that emerging microgrid technology can serve as a reliable source of power when the electric grid goes down,” said Energy Commission Vice Chair Janea A. Scott. “This project also reflects the Energy Commission’s continuing effort to ensure that Native American tribes and other diverse communities are benefiting from our portfolio of clean energy and pollution reduction programs.”

The Chemehuevi Reservation in San Bernardino County is in a remote desert area of the state subject to electrical disruptions. Reliable power is required at the community center because it also serves as the tribe’s emergency response center during emergencies.

“On occasion, power will be out for up to three days, which is concerning especially for community members with medical conditions or tribal elders,” said Chemehuevi Vice-Chairman Glenn Lodge. “Low-income and elderly residents come to the center for a place to sleep and shower, power their medical devices, or just stay cool during summer blackouts.”

In 2014, the Energy Commission awarded $2.6 million to the University of California, Riverside to partner with the Chemehuevi Tribe, EcoForce Solutions, and GRID Alternatives to install the microgrid.

During normal operations, the system will save the tribe money by managing peak energy demand. During a grid outage, the system will provide uninterrupted power to the center and the adjacent tribal housing offices.

The performance of the microgrid will be analyzed for a year, and it could become a model for other tribes and communities seeking greater electrical reliance.

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The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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