A drive down Santa Cruz’s Mission Street normally consists of a steady stream of power lines and warehouses. But somewhere in between stands a vibrant blue building void of any connection to the power grid; no wires, cables, or meter in sight.
Sandbar Solar & Electric’s new headquarters is the first of it’s kind in Santa Cruz County. Their 11,500 square foot commercial building runs solely off of sunshine, battery storage, and on occasion, a backup generator. To power such a large space, Sandbar Solar & Electric developed and constructed an advanced microgrid system that incorporates 60KW of rooftop solar, three Avalon flow batteries supplying 30KW of electricity, two Ideal power inverters, an Ageto control system (the mind and body of the microgrid), and a 60KW natural gas backup generator.
Solar panels supply 95% of Sandbar Solar & Electric’s electricity needs. When the sun is out, their headquarters are powered entirely by solar which then feeds the batteries enough electricity to power the building throughout the night and majority of the next day.
Since adopting their new microgrid system in November of 2018, the solar and electric company has only needed to run their generator for 300 hours, or 13 days. This occurs when rain or heavy clouds are present, but when energy needs aren’t dire, their system allows them to turn off the generator with the push of a button. Sandbar Solar & Electric worked with Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District to adopt a Prime power generator that abides by California’s Clean Air Act, reducing emissions significantly compared to a conventional diesel generator.
According to Sandbar Solar & Electric’s Electrical & Solar Contractor, Cale Garamendi, “A true microgrid that provides resiliency incorporates a generator, but doesn’t depend on it entirely. If you only have a backup generator and you go to turn on a light that uses 100 watts of electricity, there’s massive amounts of fuel being burned and it’s inefficient. Solar combined with battery storage and a generator gives you that peace of mind. If there’s a seismic event, we can depend on solar and battery storage. If there’s a hiccup in firmware, software, or the system needs repairs, we can rely on the generator.”