Cuyahoga County, Ohio Sets up Microgrid Utility Division, Issues RFQ

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Cuyahoga County, Ohio, has set up a public utility division to manage microgrids and has issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) seeking a design consultant for its ambitious plan to build multiple microgrids.

Cuyahoga County

Howard M. Metzenbaum United States Courthouse reflecting in the pool on Public Square of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. By Nina Alizada/Shutterstock.com

The new utility divison is a first for the state of Ohio, according to the county, which is pursuing microgrids to attract businesses that seek highly resilient electricity and to foster local development of clean, local energy. 

“The creation of the Division of Public Utilities will allow us to build innovative microgrids that will provide highly resilient power to businesses and commercial entities that need it,” said Armond Budish, county executive, who conceived the idea for the new utility. “By providing power that has an uptime of 99.999%, we can guarantee that, even if the main power grid goes down, those on the microgrid won’t lose power for more than five minutes in a year.”

The complex project has had a long history, originating from a proposal to build a $100 million microgrid in Cleveland, Ohio — an initiative pursued by the city, the county and Cleveland Public Power and the Cleveland Foundation. When that plan stalled, the county decided to move forward on its own setting up a template to build microgrids throughout its jurisdiction.

The public utility would provide electric, natural gas and thermal energy to select geographic locations suitable for microgrids, renewable energy, and, potentially, cogeneration.

Earlier, the county said it was considering microgrids for at least three areas:

  • Aerozone, an innovation hub that spans several municipalities and includes the Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport and the NASA Glenn Research Center.
  • A 120-acre Sherwin-Williams research and development center in Brecksville.
  • A former American Greetings headquarters and surrounding area in Brooklyn.

Issued Sept. 20, the consultant RFQ is a precursor to the county issuing a request for proposals for a microgrid developer, which Cuyahoga County hopes to choose by next summer. The county will seek a developer that can finance the construction, operations and ongoing maintenance of the microgrids and other energy services. 

The microgrids, which the county hopes to begin building in fall of 2022, will be islandable and will use as much locally generated clean energy as possible. They will feed into the larger transmission grid so that they can purchase or sell power into the wholesale market. The microgrids also will create on-site generation and provide district distribution of fuel and thermal utilities, according to the RFQ.

The RFQ seeks a consultant that can help it identify a developer/operator for the three to six microgrids. Among other things, the consultant will assist in preparing bidding documents that accurately describe the engineering and legal aspects of the project.

Responses to the RFQ are due Oct. 20. A prequalifications conference is scheduled for Thursday, Sept.  30. The contact is Adrienne Simons: [email protected]

“Our country is seeing stronger and more violent storms causing large-scale power outages, which can cost entities millions of dollars,” said Mike Foley, county sustainability director. “Microgrids will provide locally generated clean electricity that will minimize utility downtime and provide for a more resilient and cleaner electric grid.

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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.