San Diego Daily Transcript – Civita Developer, SDG&E announce smart-grid deployment plan

San Diego Gas & Electric and mixed-use developer Sudberry Properties are looking to make an example of Sudberry’s Civita development in Mission Valley.

The utility announced plans Monday to work with the developer to turn the development into the metropolitan area’s first working “smart” microgrid, with technologies such as solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, fuel cell generation, battery storage and enhanced energy management tools, anchoring what will make Civita a “smart energy community.”

The hope, SDG&E said, is to help residents and businesses conserve electricity, preserve the environment and make Civita a model for future “low-carbon” communities. At a Monday press conference, SDG&E Senior Vice President of Power Supply Jim Avery commended Sudberry for its vision in adopting new smart-grid technologies.

Located on 230 acres that were once a sand and gravel quarry, Civita will be the first community in urban San Diego to partner with SDG&E on such a venture. Earlier this year, SDG&E received the 2012 Power Smart Grid Award from Power Magazine for the launching of its ambitious smart-grid plan, which included a plan to invest $3.5 billion from 2006 through 2020 and the recently launched Borrego Springs Microgrid demonstration project.

Much like what’s planned for at Civita, the Borrego project will interconnect battery energy storage, local generation and automated switches to create a self-sustaining grid that can manage electrical outages and enhance local reliability.

But, “it’s not quite like Civita,” said Hanan Eisenman, an SDG&E spokesman, by phone Monday. “Civita is right in the heart of San Diego, right in the center of our service territory.”

With the Civita smart-grid project barely being launched, and decisions yet to be made as to which buildings within the development will be outfitted for local generation or energy storage, many details aren’t known about what percentage of the development will be self-sustaining in the event of power loss on the grid. But at the very least, Eisenman said, portions of the development will be able to stay powered in such a situation.

He also said it’s too early for SDG&E to estimate the cost of implementing the smart-grid technologies at Civita.

Still in the early stages of a multiphase project, the Civita development already has installed a 145-kilowatt photovoltaic solar array that powers nearly 100 percent of the common area electricity consumption of Circa 37, Civita’s first apartment community.

By phone Monday, Marco Sessa, senior vice president of Sudberry Properties, said he’s not sure how the planned projects for the smart-grid at Civita will be funded, as the deployment strategy of smart grid technologies there — and the technologies themselves — will evolve with the ongoing building of the Civita development and the time that passes.

However, he said that the technologies already in place there, including six electric vehicle charging stations, four of which have been designated for Car2Go smart car users, were completely funded by Sudberry. Additions may include technologies not yet mastered.

“The build-out of the master plan will take almost probably another decade,” Sessa said. “Right now, we’re working on another apartment phase that’s going to include some fuel cells and also photovoltaic panels.”

That new apartment phase is expected to break ground in the next few months, meaning what will be included in the smart-grid design there will be based on today’s technology. But some of the technologies looked at for even later phases of Civita are still under development, leaving the realm of possibilities open for what may actually end up being installed and deployed there.

“We have some stuff that we’re looking at which is a demand response technology, basically a little module that goes on the back of appliances,” Sessa said. “And those (would) communicate through wireless signals that allow them to talk to the smart meter that SDG&E has and allows potential control of those appliances in the event that (SDG&E is) about to do a brownout.”

Upon completion, Civita will consist of 4,780 residential homes and apartments, and nearly 1 million square feet of retail and office properties.