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Santa Clara County is moving forward on a 10-year contract to establish an energy storage system at St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy, in order to help the hospital remain with power in the event of outages in the area.

The agreement with ForeFront Power, approved last month by the county Board of Supervisors, is pending further reports in November on land use and health care master plans.

Supervisor Cindy Chavez said she is concerned about how the land where the proposed project site is located could be used in the future.

“I know that we’re looking at some of (the adjacent) properties for other projects, including housing,” Chavez said during the Sept. 27 board meeting.

The proposed construction site for the energy storage system is in an open space that is behind the hospital’s parking lot toward Las Animas Avenue and is not currently developed.

The Board of Supervisors had approved 15 solar and four energy storage projects around the county, including a solar project at St. Louise Regional Hospital last year, but thanks to a sizable Self-Generation Incentive Program rebate that PG&E received from the California Public Utilities Commission in July, the county expects to implement a fifth energy storage system at the hospital.

Disconnecting from disruptions

According to ForeFront, the new system would establish a “microgrid” that could allow the facility to disconnect from PG&E’s electrical grid and operate independently during outages.

Due to increasing heat waves and fire-related electrical shutdowns in recent years, Santa Clara County has highlighted the need to “harden” critical at-risk infrastructure in its Sustainability Master Plan. That includes establishing five microgrids at the county’s most critical operations by 2025.

The proposed energy storage system at St. Louise would include key “microgrid-enabled” features like controllers that would allow the system to communicate with other onsite energy systems and backup generator.

With a 500-kilowatt-AC capacity, the energy storage project is expected to reduce the hospital’s onsite annual energy usage from the PG&E energy grid by about 200,000 kilowatt hours.

Based on projected PG&E rate hikes, ForeFront projects that the energy storage system could save approximately $380,000 for the duration of the proposed 10-year contract.

Construction and interconnection of the energy storage system would be scheduled to align with the already approved solar project that was already planned for the hospital and is not expected to commence until the end of 2024.

The board plans to reconvene on the issue again in November after receiving the requested reports.