PG&E deploys natural gas/biogas linear generator to Napa County microgrid

The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) deployed a new piece of technology for the benefit of its Angwin distribution microgrid site in Napa County, California this week — a Mainspring linear generator.

In contrast to the traditional mobile diesel generators PG&E currently uses for emergency-stricken service areas, the linear generator is a mobile power generation technology capable of using natural gas and directed renewable biogas. Generators of either type can be deployed at substations, distribution microgrid sites, community resource centers and critical facilities as needed for connection to the grid.

In the pilot, the new generator — a product of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC and Mainspring Energy — will be paired with the onsite diesel generator at Angwin and connected to both PG&E’s electric and natural gas distribution systems to see if a hybrid solution could potentially cut diesel use and emissions during emergencies or Public Safety Power Shutoff events. Naturally, it will also be assessed for its ability to provide continued reliability.

“We know how important clean, reliable energy is to our customers and communities,” Jason Glickman, executive vice president of Engineering, Planning & Strategy at PG&E, said. “We are excited to explore new technologies like the linear generator to help keep customers powered during larger outages while also reducing the use of diesel backup generation. This is a low-emissions, resilient, and affordable alternative that holds a lot of promise for our future.”

NextEra provided the financing for the deployment of the new generator, as part of a $150 million purchase and financing agreement with Mainspring. Biogas used for the pilot will be purchased from another location.

“NextEra Energy Resources sees strong potential for new technologies like the Mainspring linear generator to provide reliable, low-cost, and clean energy in California and elsewhere,” Matt Ulman, vice president of distributed generation for NextEra Energy Resources, said. “It’s important to get pilot projects into the field for real-world testing, and we are pleased to enable innovative projects that offer resiliency to keep the lights on at businesses and homes.”

Although this will be the Mainspring generator’s pilot premier, this debut follows months of testing and collaboration between PG&E and Mainspring.

Chris Galford

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