Green Jail to Demonstrate Power of Microgrids

Photo of Berkeley Lab scientist Chris Marnay atop a roof in Oakland
March 2012

When the next “big one” hits Northern California, chances are good that the power will be knocked out across large swaths of the Bay Area. But one place that is likely to stand unaffected is Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, California, the third largest jail in the state and fifth largest in the country. If all goes according to plan, this “mega-jail,” housing about 4,000 inmates, will seamlessly disconnect itself from the electric grid and switch over to its own microgrid, powering itself for the duration.

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are using software they developed called DER-CAM (Distributed Energy Resources-Customer Adoption Model), which looks at electricity and heat requirements, to help analyze and develop an optimal plan for the Jail to meet its needs at minimum cost.