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.

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.