Microgrid Installed for Low-income Apartments, First for Washington DC

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In a first for Washington DC, a microgrid that combines solar and energy storage has been installed in an affordable housing complex.

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By Cristina Romero Palma/Shutterstock.com

The Maycroft Apartment’s $327,000 resiliency center includes a 70.2-kW rooftop solar array combined with a 46-kW/56 kWh battery system that can disconnect from the grid and provide power for up to three days during an unplanned power outage, according to SimpliPhi Power, a battery company based in Oxnard, California, that was part of the project. 

The microgrid covers critical loads for the center such as refrigeration for food and medicine, exhaust and floor fans, lighting, outlets for cell phone charging and medical equipment, kitchen facilities and televisions, SimpliPhi said Jan. 27.

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The lithium ferro phosphate battery system is set up in the apartment complex’s basement. The system and related equipment cost $90,000 and it cost another $40,000 to install it, according to Kristen Caloca, a SimpliPhi spokeswoman.

The solar array cost $197,000 and is expected to produce 75 MWh a year, according to a summary of the project prepared by Clean Energy Group, an advocacy organization in Montpelier, Vermont.

Pepco, an Exelon utility, is managing the interface between the battery system and the solar array. The utility plans to use data from the project to help it set up other resiliency centers.

“Customer-cited energy storage can provide instant access to reliable and affordable power when the grid goes down and optimize energy usage when the grid is available, benefiting both utilities and energy consumers,” said Catherine Von Burg, SimpliPhi chief executive officer.

Electricity from the solar panels is aggregated under a city program, reducing the electric bills for about 100 Jubilee households by $40 to $50 a month for 15 years, according the project summary. Overall, the solar array is expected to save residents $750,000.

Project participants include Jubilee Housing, an affordable housing developer, Pepco, New Partners Community Solar and the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and Environment.

The project started operating last year.

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