Massachusetts Kicks off New Microgrid Effort. Offers Grants for Microgrid Feasibility Studies

Already a draw for distributed energy projects, Massachusetts added a sweetener last week by making funds available for microgrid feasibility studies.

microgrid feasibility studies

The Longwood Medical Area, which includes Harvard Medical School (pictured), is served by a microgrid.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) issued a ‘request for expressions of interest’ seeking teams to develop community microgrids. Three to five applicants will each win $75,000 grants for microgrid feasibility studies.

The solicitation is the first step in a multi-phase state program to encourage microgrid development. Projects that win the grants will be eligible for additional funding and technical assistance in future phases of the program.

Massachusetts is taking a different approach to incentivizing microgrids than some other nearby states. It does not plan to offer the big funding pots of nearby Connecticut, which has a $30 million microgrid solicitation on the street, or New York with its $40 million NY Prize. Instead, the state will use smaller amounts of money to tease out community microgrid opportunities and attract investment.

Massachusetts is viewed as fertile ground for microgrids because of its high energy prices, local energy tech sector, and a government push for green energy, most recently energy storage. In addition, the Boston area is home to several long-standing microgrids at hospitals, universities and other facilities.

Community and utility support

The state seeks microgrid proposals that “have a strong likelihood of success” and support of local authorities and utilities.

The winning microgrids may meet a range of objectives, among them reduction of greenhouse gases. Under state law, Massachusetts must reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent in 2020 and at least an 80 percent in 2050.

Bidding is open to several entities, including municipalities, utilities, emergency services departments, hospital financial institutions, commercial building owners and developers.

The grants will go to proposals for microgrids that use renewable energy and have multiple customers, including at least one critical facility.

Massachusetts will be home to Microgrid 2017 Nov. 6-8 in Boston. Check out the conference agenda.

The state hopes – although does not require – that the microgrids encompass no more than 8 to 12 buildings, and that they have symbiotic loads — in aggregate their load profile is flat. Preference also goes to projects that use combined heat and power and energy storage.

Ideally, the microgrids will serve communities with at least 4,500 people per square mile and help vulnerable populations.

The state intends to select projects throughout the state and utility territories, so that it achieves geographic diversity. It also wants the portfolio of microgrids to serve different types of critical facilities.

Winners may conduct the microgrid feasibility studies themselves or free-of-charge from a consultant working through the MassCEC.

The MassCEC will accept expressions of interest through June 23. Questions will be accepted through June 16 and will be posted with responses to the MassCEC website on a rolling basis. The state expects to announce grant winners in the third quarter of 2017.

Application details are available from the MassCEC (EOI FY2017MKTDEV-02).

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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

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