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Pico Rivera Assessing Innovative Alternative Power Grid



BY BRIAN HEWS • April 20, 2021

Increased demands on the nation’s electrical power systems and incidences of electricity shortages, power quality problems, rolling blackouts, and electricity price spikes have caused many utility customers to seek other sources of high-quality, reliable electricity.

Distributed Energy Resources (DER), small-scale power generation sources located close to where electricity is used (e.g., a home or business), provide an alternative to or an enhancement of the traditional electric power grid.

DER is a faster, less expensive option to the construction of large, central power plants and high-voltage transmission lines. They offer consumers the potential for lower cost, higher service reliability, high power quality, increased energy efficiency, and energy independence.

The use of renewable distributed energy generation technologies and “green power” such as wind, photovoltaic, geothermal, biomass, or hydroelectric power can also provide a significant environmental benefit.

In May 2020, the Pico Rivera City Council approved an agreement with TerraVerde Energy, LLC  for DER project management. In September 2020, TerraVerde completed a feasibility analysis for deploying DERs at City and El Rancho Unified School District (ERUSD) facilities, at no cost.

The effort is part of the city’s PRIME program, Pico Rivera Innovative Municipal Energy, the City’s  locally run power provider. The City promotes power alternatives, resource conservation, and smart energy consumption. The City wants to create the most innovative, decentralized modern energy platform in the state.

They analyzed historic energy usage data at the facilities to determine the most suitable sites for the deployment of solar and battery storage systems to provide a financial benefit to the Pico Rivera Innovative Municipal Energy (PRIME) program. TerraVerde assessed all 79 City electricity accounts for viability based on electricity usage, only seven sites were identified as being viable for solar.

TerraVerde also assessed 16 ERUSD sites for the financial viability of installing storage, only two schools with existing solar panels were identified as having a positive fiscal outlook for the installation of battery storage: Rivera Elementary and North Park Academy.

El Rancho High School is the only ERUSD facility without existing solar panels. The council was told that if ERUSD deployied Solar + Storage at the high school would save $1,507,259 over 25 years.

In other news the City Council took action using the recently Cares Act funds allocating $200,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief to the Small Business Grant

Program; allocated  $100,000 for the Emergency Senior Meal Program; and reallocated $49,474 to the Senior Center ADA Parking Lot Improvements.

The Business Grant Program includes a one-time $10,000 grant to eligible businesses to help create jobs, retain jobs and offer quality services to the residents of Pico Rivera.

Grant funds may be used for overhead expenses, rent, utilities, business services such as web site development to increase capacity and necessary equipment to continue business operations. Businesses are not expected to pay back grants.

Some of the criteria for qualifying for the grant discussed include the following: business must be physically located within City limits; business has a current business license, in good standing in the City; business employs approximately 20 or less employees; business has been operational at least six (6) months; business must possess or register for a DUNS number; business must submit all required documents including application and back-up income documentation. Check the city’s website for additional criteria.

Pico Rivera Mayor Raul Elias told HMG-CN, ” The Distributed Energy Resource (DER) pilot program is a service enhancement to our Pico Rivera Innovative Municipal Energy (Prime) that provides energy services to our city businesses and residents. In an effort to address the pandemic recession that has resulted in reductions in our tax revenues, as well as user fees and charges we have developed and implemented a revenue diversification program where the city becomes the low cost provider of utility services including in the near future fiber optics service capabilities. This DER pilot program aims to provide PRIME customers with added cost savings and community resiliency benefits to Pico Rivera by deploying a network of solar + battery storage systems across the City. There are several benefits of the DER pilot program beyond customer cost savings. First, the DER pilot program will localize energy generation thus reducing energy losses that occur along the transmission line and reducing PRIME’s procurement requirements. Second, the DER pilot program can provide dispatchable power at specific times of the day to reduce peak demand and pull from greener energy resources to reduce air-polluting emissions at those peak times. Lastly, backup power from battery storage can alternatively serve as leveraged resources to aid with resiliency and energy security during power outages during high-demand days, similar to extreme heatwave days the community experienced in August 2020.

As Mayor of Pico Rivera I have pledged not to raise taxes but instead implement and support entrepreneurial programs and policies that will diversify our revenue sources and make less depended on traditional tax revenue. ”