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The new Ramona microgrid facility will provide backup power to the Ramona Air Attack Base, home to the region's aerial firefighting equipment.
The new microgrid facility will provide backup power to the Ramona Air Attack Base, home to the region's aerial firefighting equipment. Photo by Andy Dean

SDG&E completes Ramona microgrid to support aerial firefighting base

RAMONA — San Diego Gas & Electric has completed the Ramona microgrid, one of four planned microgrids within a high fire-threat district in the county’s backcountry, it was announced today.

The Ramona facility is intended to provide backup power to the Ramona Air Attack Base, home to Cal Fire and U.S. Forest Service’s aerial firefighting equipment. The microgrid is touted as producing zero emissions as it’s powered by battery storage, SDG&E said in a statement.

“It gives us peace of mind to have backup power for a critical facility like the Ramona Air Attack Base, especially given the fact that fire season in California has become year-round,” said Cal Fire/San Diego County Fire Chief Tony Mecham.

Microgrids are small power grids that can operate in parallel or independently of the larger electric grid to keep pre-defined areas or community resources powered during emergencies. In 2013, the energy company built the first utility-scale microgrid in the nation in Borrego Springs.

The Ramona grid was built in collaboration with Cal Fire and the Forest Service with the intent of keeping essential resources powered during Public Safety Power Shutoffs and other emergency situations.

“As climate conditions continue to worsen, it’s imperative that we develop innovative solutions to support the continuity of essential resources, particularly our region’s emergency response resources, so they are ready for deployment at any moment,” said SDG&E CEO Caroline Winn. “The completion of the Ramona microgrid is a milestone in our ongoing partnership with Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service as we work to make our electric system safer, cleaner and more reliable.”

Cal Fire staffs the Ramona Air Attack Base year-round with one OV-10A Bronco tactical aircraft and two S-2T air tankers. The aircraft support wildland fire suppression locally and can be requested to assist with fires throughout California. Additionally, the base houses the U.S. Forest Service’s Bell 205 A++ helicopter and crew, which serves the Cleveland National Forest and can also be mobilized to help throughout the State of California.

“The U.S. Forest Service depends on the Ramona Air Attack Base to protect communities within and adjacent to the Cleveland National Forest,” said Scott Tangenberg, forest supervisor. “The ability to use aircraft to help suppress catastrophic wildfires is a critical tool in our fire suppression toolbox.

“Successful fire suppression not only helps safeguard the people and property in local communities, it also helps protect important watersheds, sensitive wildlife habitats and cultural resources,” he said. “Equally important as fire suppression, the prevention of wildfires additionally helps reduce carbon emissions and lung-damaging air pollution — both of which contribute to negative health and climate impacts.”

During fire incidents in San Diego County, the Ramona Air Attack Base serves as the hub for fixed-wing aircraft that are assigned to the incident