This is why Tuesday’s ribbon cutting for the largest commercial building DC microgrid in the world, at the American Honda Distribution Center in Chino, is an important milestone. This microgrid generates, stores and then uses direct current or DC to power energy-efficient lighting, ventilation and forklift chargers.
The DC microgrid addresses a longstanding barrier to improving efficiency, which is that the utility distribution grid delivers alternating current, or AC, while rooftop solar energy and batteries use DC. Conversions back and forth are inefficient and waste power.
“Honda was the first automaker to acknowledge the problem of climate change, and is committed to the goal of a carbon-free society,” said Ryan Harty, manager of Honda’s Environmental Business Development Office.
He also noted the aptness of the facility’s location, just off of Edison Ave. in Chino. “Thomas Edison was the father of DC microgrids, so this is a pretty good tribute to him.”
There are currently only five DC microgrid demonstration projects in North America, including one other in California. The Honda microgrid was funded as a demonstration project by the California Energy Commission and other partners.
The microgrid’s power comes from 286 kW rooftop solar panels that can power 100 percent of the energy required for the lighting, ventilation and fork lift chargers when the sun is shining or can divert excess energy to two on-site batteries with a combined 540 kWh of storage.
So much of innovation is team effort. Customers, vendors and our utility all supported this project. Working together, we can meet California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.
SCE vice president
Avoiding the conversion from DC to AC current and back again saves 10 percent of the energy produced. It also improves grid reliability and can save Honda money on their electric bill. Ultimately, DC microgrids should allow customers to better harness renewable energy in order to clean the air and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Projects like these have direct benefits for the communities around them,” said Bryan Early, representing California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister.
SCE supported the interconnection of the microgrid with the utility grid, which provides backup to the system, ensuring reliability.
“So much of innovation is team effort. Customers, vendors and our utility all supported this project,” said Mike Marelli, SCE vice president of Business Customer Division. “Working together, we can meet California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.”
The California Energy Commission and partners are collecting performance data which will be evaluated to understand the capabilities of the system. This data will then be used to determine the viability and scope of potential future DC microgrids.
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