Interest in Microgrids is Building in the Washington, DC Area

Annette Osso, managing director of Resilient Virginia, describes the growing interest in microgrids — a topic that will be explored at a gathering of microgrid and energy storage leaders next week in Washington, D.C. 

interest in microgridsLeaders in Energy and Resilient Virginia are teaming up on October 19, 5:30-8:30 p.m., to bring together an exceptional group of national and regional speakers on microgrids and storage solutions that can significantly increase energy resiliency.

The event,”Improving Resiliency through Microgrids and Battery Storage,” which will take place at the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), will provide participants with the opportunity to meet leaders who are considering and implementing microgrid and battery storage in the Washington DC region. In addition, several speakers will provide a national perspective on the utility-microgrid interface and federal R&D programs.

Especially in the wake of this year’s severe hurricanes, the utilization of microgrids plus battery storage is seen increasingly by governments and businesses as the wave of the future to help ensure energy reliability.

Scott Sklar, president of The Stella Group, a clean energy technology optimization, financing, and strategic policy firm that works with commercial, institutional and government clients, recently weighed in on redevelopment of energy systems in Puerto Rico.

In his article, “Puerto Rico needs microgrids and private buy-in for reliable energy,” Sklar proposes that segmenting the electric grid is a much faster and more reliable approach rather than just rebuilding a new version of the conventional system. He cites lower percentages of outages in European and Japanese utility systems that are integrating microgrids into older systems.

Further he suggests that a properly integrated, smart system will lower electricity costs compared to the 24-48 cents/kWh Puerto Rico paid prior to Hurricane Maria. Smart integration of a variety of energy sources, including solar and wind farms and combined heat and power systems would maximize resiliency for the island.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk asserted that since his company  already has the infrastructure developed to power smaller islands around the world, bringing solar technology to Puerto Rico would be a matter of scaling up to meet that country’s energy needs. The Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, has expressed interest in innovative approaches to power restoration, which is projected to take up to four to five months.  He responded to Musk via Twitter regarding his interest in learning more about Tesla’s solutions using solar energy and battery technology.

The U.S. military has already seen the logic of microgrids for energy security and resiliency and has worked through the planning, financing, and operations process at a number of its bases.

The US Army base, Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, has one of the largest microgrids in the world, covering over 100 square miles, and using multiple types of energy generation technologies.

In Virginia, Fort Belvoir is working with private partners to install a multi-megawatt system with an advanced, cybersecure, control system. It incorporates elements of the existing system and new infrastructure, along with a storage management system, while also working the Dominion Energy on integration with the grid.

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Montgomery County, Maryland, is taking the lead in the Washington, DC area as a local government which has created a public-private partnership to build resilient microgrid systems for critical public facilities, while addressing initial development financing and the need for stable operating costs. The county effort, led by Eric Coffman, chief, and Michael Yambrach, project manager, Office of Energy and Sustainability, will result in two advanced microgrids. One is being installed at their Public Safety Headquarters, and is expected to generate 11.4 million kWh of clean and low emissions energy, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 3,233 metric tons annually.

Confirmed speakers for the October 19 Leaders in Energy/Resilient Virginia event are:

John Caldwell, director of economics, EEI, who heads its Microgrid Task Force, will discuss the utility/microgrid interface.  The EEI Microgrid Task Force was formed to support the industry’s advocacy effort for policies that support utility involvement in the construction, owning, and operating of microgrids.  The group is also engaged in the exploration of business models and rate designs that enable the effective ownership and operation of these facilities.

Bracken Hendricks, CEO and founder, Urban Ingenuity, leads the implementation of the company’s vision: to finance and develop advanced energy infrastructure projects that speed the clean energy future. UI served as the lead energy development partner in the design of a state-of-the-art district energy system and advanced microgrid at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Robert Hughes, executive director, Air Force Office of Energy Assurance (OEA), Washington, D.C. As OEA executive director, he leads the implementation of projects that increase energy assurance using more resilient, cost-effective, and cleaner solutions – ultimately supporting mission-ready installations.

Brendan Owens, chief of engineering, US Green Building Council, will highlight Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal (PEER), the first certification system for sustainable power systems such as microgrids.  PEER has been utilized locally to help assess feasibility of a microgrid project at Gallaudet University.

J. E. “Jack” Surash, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army, energy & sustainability, will highlight Army microgrid projects in the US and region.  Several examples will illustrate how the Army is working to not only support energy resiliency on their bases, but also in the surrounding communities.

Dan Ton, program manager, Smart Grid R&D, US Department of Energy, will present an overview of national research and development initiatives. The US DOE recently awarded $32 million in research funds for ”resilient distribution systems,” including  $12 million for two microgrid projects.

Michael Yambrach, capital projects manager, Montgomery County, will provide a regional example of innovation in the use of microgrids to increase resiliency in critical facilities, and in the development of “Microgrids-as-a-Service,” which is a public-private partnership approach to costs, construction and management of systems.

Join businesses, university and government representatives to learn more about the potential for microgrid utilization in the DMV region. Register HERE to attendImproving Resilience through Microgrids and Battery Storage” on October 19.

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