Grid Tied: Electrical Service Ugrade

BBHSP continues to oversee and forge ahead with the protracted process of bringing the vast campgrounds, retreat facilities, and natural areas up to safe standards and legal by building codes and zoning codes. The main entity we work with on power-grid-related tasks (grid-hardening, ongoing maintenace, equipment updates, etc.) is the notorious and monstrous Pacific Gas & Electric company (PG&E), but Shasta County also has to approve all plans and projects. So, with these busy agencies, it’s a slow process.

Over the years, we have adujsted the scope of our Master Plan to refect lessons learned on the project and to flow with the ever-changing and challenging times we face these days. One of the original BBHSP founders, Skip Towne, was an electician and a solar PV systems installer. Skip felt we would be smart to upgrade to the three-phase (400 amp) grid-tied service, since the BBHSP project and faclities are planned to grow subtantially in coming years, and we have had longterm goals to generate electricity from both solar and geothermal generators. With the amount of power we will be generating, we will need three-phase grid connection to sell electricity to PG&e. We never gave up Skip’s vison and to this day, we are still working on the electrical system upgrades that Skip spearheaded, including the three-phase service; the relocation of overhead powerlines to cross Pit River further upstream; running underground power lines to campgrounds and parking/entrance areas; the restotation of power to upper gate area; and undergrounding a section of powerlines that currently run directly overhead through the garden.

Here are examples of common uses for three-phase electrical systems compared to appliances on a single-phase system:

Three-Phase Electrical Systems:

  1. Industrial Machinery: Heavy machinery and equipment used in manufacturing plants, factories, and industrial settings often run on three-phase power. This includes motors, compressors, large-scale pumps, conveyor belts, and heavy-duty equipment.
  2. Commercial Buildings: Larger commercial facilities such as office buildings, shopping malls, and hospitals may use three-phase power for their HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems and elevators due to their higher power demands.
  3. Commercial Power Generation: Larger commercial facilities for selling power into the grid system generally require larger service connections to keep the electrons moving along to and from our grid connection. Adding a geothermal generator (in addition to the initial PV solar array), for example, will likey generate so much power, that it alone would warrant the service upgrade.
  4. Data Centers: Data centers that require substantial power to operate servers, cooling systems, and other infrastructure often employ three-phase power for efficiency and reliability.
  5. Construction Sites: Some construction sites utilize three-phase power for powering heavy construction equipment, cranes, and power tools.

Single-Phase Electrical Systems:

  1. Residential Uses: Single-phase power is commonly used in households for various applications, including:
    • Lighting
    • Heating systems (electric heaters)
    • Air conditioning units
    • Refrigerators
    • Washing machines and dryers
    • Small kitchen appliances (toasters, blenders, etc.)
  2. Small Businesses: Many small-scale businesses, shops, and offices use single-phase power for their lighting, computers, printers, and other standard office equipment.
  3. Light Industrial Applications: Some light industrial equipment, such as small motors, certain pumps, and smaller machinery, may operate on single-phase power.

In essence, three-phase power is favored in scenarios requiring higher power capacities and efficiency, especially in heavy industrial and commercial settings. Single-phase power, on the other hand, is suitable for lighter loads and commonly used in residential settings and smaller businesses for everyday appliances and equipment.

While three-phase systems might have certain advantages in terms of power distribution and efficiency, the ability to sell power back to the grid primarily depends on meeting the technical and safety standards set by the utility company rather than specifically requiring a three-phase connection.

In many cases, grid-tied solar arrays, regardless of whether they generate power in single-phase or three-phase, can sell excess electricity back to the grid. The setup typically involves a grid-tie inverter that converts the DC power generated by solar panels into AC power suitable for the grid.

The connection method and requirements for selling power back to the grid are dictated by local regulations and the utility company’s interconnection standards. These standards generally include detailed specifications for the type of inverters used, safety features, voltage and frequency regulations, metering requirements, etc.

Power to the People~ !!

**This article was written and edited by BBHSP staff, with the help of one of our AI LLM resaerch assitants, ChatGPT 3.5 – Thanks.

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