Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), with support from U.S. Department of Energy, is providing Technical Assistance to the Resilient El Rito microgrids project. MSL is leading the project, a proposed community resilience microgrid project in the village of El Rito, NM, based on and around the El Rito campus of Northern New Mexico College (NNMC). The village is at the end of a single electric power distribution line that traverses mountainous terrain and wilderness, and is subject to reliability and resilience challenges common to rural isolated areas, including climate-induced wildfires and winds.
The project is a collaboration between NNMC and Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC), the local electric utility, advised by Camus Energy (KCEC’s technology partner) and MSL SNL will assist with technical assessments, specifications, recommendations, and modeling the proposed system of “nested” microgrids for optimized economic, resilience, and sustainability objectives, using the Lab’s Microgrid Design Toolkit.
The system architecture will incorporate a NNMC campus microgrid and college facilities (including commercial kitchen and dormitories), within a larger community Distribution Feeder Microgrid serving all El Rito loads, and capable of load-
shedding to support critical facilities (i.e., fire station, medical/dental clinic, elementary school, senior center, post office), in a “networked” or “nested” architecture. The existing KCEC 1.5 mW PV array located on campus would serve as the primary local generation source, to be complemented by a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) and switchgear, communications, and controls technology, and possibly a baseload CHP system.
In a later phase, the system architecture could also isolate KCEC’s Tres Piedras/El Rito circuit to island and serve all loads west of the Rio Grande. We believe this system offers the potential for a unique testbed and demonstration site, supporting R&D, validation, technology commercialization, economic development, and workforce training.
MSL has also formed an advisory Technical Team, comprising research scientists and engineers from universities, National Labs, KCEC, and Camus Energy, and led by the Project Director (MSL President David Breecker). The Tech Team, which met for a kick-off workshop in July 2021, is charged with contributing insights and recommendations on all technical aspects of the system architecture and design to ensure it will be capable of supporting instructional, operational, R&D, and technology commercialization objectives, and will work with SNL’s Principal Investigator to produce a final deliverable report that specifies design factors and requirements, essential assets, procedures, and protocols.