Think of a town-sized version of the switch that lets a home equipped with solarPV and battery backup disconnect from the grid when it goes down, and fall back on its battery array.
The hard part would be rounding up the capital and the leadership, and that’s what
my dream was about.
A dream of self-sufficiency
It happened in Mill Valley, CA, a fairly well-heeled community of about 14,000people where I used to live, just north of San Francisco. Frustrated with frequentgrid outages, a small group of local, wealthy residents decided to take matters intotheir own hands. They created a small fund and set a modest target for the firstyear, like $1 million to buy PV and install it on the larger rooftops in town
forexample, the grocery store, the rec center, the sewage treatment plant. At the sametime, they added some battery arrays equivalent to the generation of each array.
Because they were the town’s elites, they were able to persuade the town council to
give them regulatory support for the project, clearing permitting hurdles for newsolar systems, and requiring the utility to install the microgrid switches. Themanagers of the commercial buildings were eager to host the arrays because theywere tired of the grid going down and wanted stability, and they readily agreed tobuy the power the arrays generated.When the first year proved a success, the fund was doubled, and more generationcapacity was added. Each year, it doubled again. A sense of local pride began todevelop around the idea, and by the fifth year, everyone wanted to be a part of it.Grandmothers dipped into their savings and contributed in $5,000 and $10,000amounts. Schoolchildren held fundraisers and contributed $200 at a time. By thetenth year, the largest roofs and available ground space were covered in solar PVmodules, and by the twentieth, nearly every spot with good solar exposure had it.In time, the microgrid switching was installed, and larger storage projects wereundertaken. A multi-million dollar system to store power for the whole town wasinstalled, which pumped water up nearby Mt. Tamalpais and used the existingreservoirs.