Santa Rita Jails’s smart grid: no black outs, we are eco!
An American jail's new anti-blackout system combines several renewable energy sources.
Thanks to a fuel cell system, solar panels, wind turbines and an energy storage system, the Santa Rita jail's smart grid is considered one of the most reliable in the United States and will enable the jail to save approximately $2.2 million in utility bills over the next 25 years.
Not far from San Francisco, California, the Santa Rita jail, with 4000 inmates, has recently completed an energy system that combines a 1 MW fuel cell system, solar panels, wind turbines and a 2 MW energy storage system in a grid capable of operating independently from large centralized power plants.
The latest aspect is a 250 kW photovoltaic power plant that uses new technology to track sunlight even on rainy days. In this way, it is possible to generate roughly 30% more energy than with fixed photovoltaic panels.
Therefore, there will be no more blackouts and guaranteed power 24/7, a particularly important factor for a maximum security jail. Santa Rita's smart grid is one of the most advanced in the United States and will allow the jail to save roughly $2.2 million in utility bills over the next 25 years.
The project, funded in part by the US Department of Energy, the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission, uses software and electronics developed ad hoc to combine several power sources and storage systems in order to constantly provide energy, independent from the weather conditions that might influence the amount generated from renewable sources.
At Santa Rita, each energy source has its own dedicated control computer which coordinates, synchronized with the others, the flow of energy from the source. It can also adjust the frequency and voltage of the energy generated.
The energy company Encorp has worked to optimize each power source. If there is a peak in demand, the grid sells the excess energy generated by the jail to the power company, and it does so in total autonomy. At certain times, it can temporarily lower the air-conditioning or lighting in the prison to generate excess energy to be sold to the power company grid.
“During our history we have always tried to use state-of-the-art technology," said Alameda County Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern in an interview. “The smart grid and the new solar power system continues in that tradition".
Source: Planet Inspired