Blue Lake Rancheria microgrid
Photo: Courtesy of Blue Lake Rancheria.

When the power goes out in Humboldt County, California, the lights stay on in a small tribal community there.

Blue Lake Rancheria has a 500-kilowatt solar array, paired with battery storage.

It’s a microgrid, feeding renewable energy to the local utility grid. But if regional power goes out, the system can independently power the tribe’s government offices, casino, hotel, and an emergency shelter.

Ganion: “We’re going to be able to provide critical infrastructure for really as long as we need it.”

Jana Ganion, the tribe’s sustainability and government affairs director, says the system – which was built two years ago – helps make the tribe more self-sufficient. And it reduces energy costs by about $200,000 a year.

'We want our microgrids and the other things we develop on-site to benefit not only our community but the whole entire grid.' Click To Tweet

But, she says, it also provides benefits beyond the immediate community, because the solar energy it generates helps green the larger grid.

Ganion: “We’re not necessarily interested in being an island. We want our microgrids and the other things we develop on-site to benefit not only our community but the whole entire grid. We want to work with others across the region to effect benefits – rapid benefits – that create climate action as soon as possible.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.