Penn State Team Tests Hybrid Microgrid for Use Across the State

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Pennsylvania State University is testing a low-carbon hybrid microgrid in an attempt to create a transferable blueprint for additional microgrid sites across the state.

The university has received funding to demonstrate a hybrid microgrid on a 600-kW “nano-loop” of an existing microgrid at The Navy Yard in Philadelphia.

The Navy Yard is an innovative 1,200-acre urban mixed-use waterfront business campus that is committed to smart energy and sustainability.

The hybrid microgrid combines Pennsylvania Marcellus shale-gas turbines with solar and battery storage to power eight occupied office buildings, a sewage pump station, and Penn State’s GridSTAR house and Solar Energy Training Center facilities. A hotel is also planned for the loop in the near future

In addition to producing electricity, the hybrid microgrid captures and uses thermal heat produced by the natural gas turbine. The process results in little waste of primary energy, making it highly efficient. The thermal heat then can be used for heating and cooling various on-site facilities.

The hybrid microgrid operates as a “single total energy providing system,” according to James Freihaut, technical director of The Navy Yard and professor of architectural engineering at Penn State.

“A natural gas-fired gas turbine system is used to generate electricity in coordination with a solar photovoltaic generating system. Excess electrical energy is stored in an associated battery system, to be utilized when on-site demand is temporarily larger than the system generating capacity, or it can be sold back to the connected utility grid on high demand days,” he said in a news release.

Penn State researchers will continuously monitor the project’s planned heat output and follow how the output is being used by the buildings. The Navy Yard technical staff will analyze the data. Findings will form the basis of a hybrid system design process for the sizing and operation of resilient, low-carbon footprint microgrids elsewhere.

Penn State University is collaborating with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and other technology providers with funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP funding for the project is provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s State Energy Program.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of She has been writing about energy for more than three 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.