Maryland Announces Funding for 14 Microgrid Projects

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Maryland yesterday announced winners in its resilience solicitation, 14 facilities that speak to the range of operations now pursuing microgrid projects — from marginalized neighborhoods to food production operations to a marine terminal.

Montgomery County microgrids

Maryland, site of the Montgomery County microgrid project, pictured, is funding 14 new projects. Photo courtesy of Schneider Electric

The winners will divvy up $1.05 million provided by the Maryland Energy Administration’s (MEA) Resilient Maryland program. The funding will go toward completing detailed feasibility analyses, engineering, planning, and designs, positioning them to seek financing.

In all, the program attracted 25 microgrid proposals from a broad geographic and socio-economic swath of Maryland.

“The response to this pilot was incredible, in fact, it was one of our most popular programs this year,” said Mary Beth Tung, MEA director.

Brandon Bowser, state energy program manager, said in a blog about the program that Maryland sought to create replicable and scalable microgrid models. The state anticipates continuing the program next year with knowledge gained from this year’s projects.

Over the last decade, Maryland has been the site of several severe storms and power outages that sometimes lasted weeks. The microgrids are meant to ensure greater electric reliability. But the state also views the projects as a way to help organizations achieve sustainability goals, build jobs and in some cases save money.

Among the winners is food giant ConAgra, known for such brands as Birds Eye and Duncan Hines. The company produces plant-based meat alternatives in Hagerstown. As part of its application, the facility quantified the financial losses it faces during power outages, which the MEA said are significant. The corporation’s sustainability goals also prime it as an excellent candidate for a microgrid, according to the state agency.

Meanwhile, Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO), a utility, proposed the first connected neighborhood in the state, an effort it plans to undertake in partnership with the Prince George’s County Redevelopment Authority

Another winning project envisions multiple resiliency hubs in Baltimore to serve marginal communities. Planned by the non-profit Groundswell, the hubs would offer a location where community members can gather and access reliable power during a disaster.

And Frostburg State University proposed a microgrid for its campus that will also serve as a learning tool to help train displaced workers for clean energy jobs.

The microgrid proposals encompass a range of technologies, among them solar, battery storage, thermal storage, fuel cells,  and combined heat and power. 

The projects, which resulted from a solicitation issued in February, are described below, along with the amount of funding each will receive.

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ConAgra, $25,000, Washington County

ConAgra operates its Gardein food-processing plant in Hagerstown, MD, which produces an array of plant-based meat alternatives. The plant is a major employer for the local economy, currently providing 140 jobs with projections of up to 80 additional jobs with a planned plant expansion. Resiliency projects are vital for communities like Hagerstown, which has 27% of their population living below the poverty line. As a regional supplier of food, it is deemed essential infrastructure and therefore requires constant access to resilient, sustainable energy. ConAgra has quantified projected financial impacts due to power outages, which are significant. This need for resilience in parallel with the corporation’s sustainability goals primes it as an excellent candidate to pursue a resilient facility power system solution. ConAgra will consider using solar PV, energy storage, and combined heat and power. Grant funds will be used to offset the cost of feasibility analysis, engineering, and design of the system. ConAgra will partner with Optimize Renewables located in the Frostburg State University Center for Applied Research and Innovation.

Coronado DNB, $45,000, Prince George’s County

Coronado DNBowns and operates the Coronado Apartments, a multifamily housing community in Adelphi, MD. This 70 unit community of two separate four-story buildings serves low to moderate income Maryland residents in need of more sustainable, resilient, affordable energy. Reliable power is critical for the comfort and sustained livelihood of the residents, and the property owner is committed to significantly reduce or eliminate fossil fuel sourced energy. The project considers a solar PV and battery storage system with a potential combined heat and power system. This project presents the opportunity to create a replicable model for similar multifamily communities considering microgrid solutions. Grant funds will be used toward the feasibility analysis, planning, and design of the system.

District Farms, $25,000, Frederick County

District Farms operates a USDA certified organic, hydroponic controlled-environment, indoor greenhouse system in Frederick, MD. Produce grown at the location fulfill needs of both Washington DC/Baltimore and New York. As a food supplier, this makes District Farms essential infrastructure and therefore access to reliable, sustainable, clean energy is paramount to ensure its successful continued operation. A recent approved expansion of Washington Gas’s gas service to the farm will benefit this project and enable a resilient facility power system solution that will incorporate combined heat and power technology as well as solar PV and energy storage options to make strategic, optimal use of its new natural gas resource in a way that improves sustainability. Grant funds will be used toward the cost of feasibility analysis, engineering, and design of the overall system.

Frostburg State University, $100,000, Allegany County

Frostburg State University will partner with Optimize Renewables (OR), an energy system planning and design firm to engineer a campus-scale microgrid to serve the university and local community. The microgrid will bolster campus energy resilience, further sustainability goals, and provide students with real world job training under the direction of OR and in partnership with the university. This project will help displaced workers transition to the clean energy industry.

Groundswell, $300,000, Baltimore City

Groundswell is a nonprofit dedicated to expanding solar power to marginalized communities via community solar projects. Groundswell will work with the City of Baltimore to plan and design multiple community resiliency hubs throughout the city’s most vulnerable communities. Resiliency hubs provide a centralized, trusted community location where community members can access reliable power for their essential devices, continue to receive information as emergency situations develop, store medications sensitive to temperature, and safely congregate until proper emergency response services arrive.

Housing Initiative Partnership, $78,680, Prince George’s County

The Housing Initiative Partnership (HIP) is developing a sustainable, energy efficient and environmentally friendly low-to-moderate income community of six homes in Fairmount Heights. HIP’s model introduces a newer concept that is gaining traction in the distributed energy resource industry: homes powered primarily by direct current (DC) sourced from onsite solar PV generation. Each home will be efficiently designed with a solar PV array and fully-electrified. A battery energy storage system will be implemented for all homes to share. DC-powered appliances will be implemented in each home on dedicated DC power circuitry, and those which cannot be powered by DC will be on a separate AC circuit. This model allows investment in a newer, innovative microgrid solution that shows high potential for replicability and scalability. Grant funds will be used toward the feasibility analysis, planning, and design of the system.

Howard County Government Campus, $109,000, Howard County

Howard County has been awarded two Resilient Maryland grants, one for their Howard County Government Campus in the amount of $100,000 and one for the Howard County Detention Center in the amount of $9,000. Located in Ellicott City, the Howard County Government Campus, houses numerous facilities that provide tremendous value to the safety and continued operation of one of the most populous counties in Maryland. Critical services located at the campus include government administration, emergency operations, the 911 call center, police, fire, and rescue services. The county will use the grant funding to conduct feasibility analysis, engineering, and design plans of a campus microgrid solution to achieve three main objectives: increase resiliency of mission critical buildings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lower the cost of energy. The proposal demonstrates a deep understanding of microgrid system best practices and the potential to achieve a replicable solution that can benefit similar facilities. The Howard County Detention Center is seeking an advanced combined heat and power solution for the Howard County Detention Center in Jessup. A clean, resilient energy solution is desired for the facility that can supplement existing backup power in the event of a grid outage, as it is among one of the largest facilities that the county operates and is considered critical infrastructure. There are additional plans to incorporate a future solar photovoltaic array in fiscal year 2021, which may allow for a more comprehensive resilient facility power system solution. Grant funds will be used for the feasibility analysis, engineering, and design of a combined heat and power system that will utilize waste heat to supplement facility boiler loads and incorporate black start and islanding capability, allowing the system to operate absent of grid power.

Maryland Port Administration $25,000 Baltimore County

The Maryland Port Administration (MPA) is pursuing the installation of a resilient facility power system for its Dundalk Marine Terminal Maintenance building 91-C. Recently constructed in 2015, the building functions as a secure storage facility for parts and material used in the maintenance and repair of various MPA facilities, cranes and fleet equipment as well as climate-controlled storage for high value and sensitive electrical components. Due to its recent construction, the facility is already fit with energy-efficient equipment and presents an excellent opportunity for a state agency to pursue a distributed energy resource solution for resiliency and cleaner energy. This will help the state lead by example. Grant funds will be used to offset the cost of feasibility analysis and evaluation of a preliminary system design. Up to five initial configurations will be considered, and the most promising solutions will be selected for further analysis.

Montgomery County, $100,000 Montgomery County

The Montgomery County Government has identified seven critical county buildings in Rockville, MD. These facilities provide essential government services and present a prime opportunity for the implementation of a community-scale microgrid that provides numerous benefits including resiliency, cleaner energy, and operational cost improvements. The implementation of this microgrid will help the county’s goal of 100% greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2035. The county will use grant funds to explore project designs, and identify the best option with the best ROI to pursue. Mongomery County already has built two microgrids often cited nationally as models for government adoption of the technology. 

Potomac Electric Power Company, $100,000, Prince George’s County

PEPCO is partnering with the Prince George’s County Redevelopment Authority to develop a parcel of land located near Forestville Road and the Capital Beltway into the first sustainable, connected neighborhood in Maryland. This new community will help the county meet its initiative to improve neighborhoods within a half mile of its existing transit centers and provide affordable, sustainable housing stock. This project proposes a community microgrid solution that incorporates combined heat and power, solar, battery storage, and advanced controls technologies. Not only is the microgrid concept ideal, but the community itself incorporates additional environmental sustainability attributes and presents an opportunity to create a scalable, replicable community model not only for Maryland but for other jurisdictions considering similar solutions. Grant funds will be used toward the feasibility analysis, engineering, and design of the system.

PRI/19647 Fisher Avenue, $13,000 Montgomery County

PRI/19647 Fisher Avenue owns and operates the Poolesville Towne Center, a retail shopping center, seeking a campus microgrid to provide customers with a Resiliency Hub to coordinate essential emergency services, store perishable food and provide residents with critical shelter in an emergency. Grant funds will be used for the planning and project design of a system with solar PV, battery storage, and advanced controls to provide cost-effective and clean energy to the center. MEA has identified this project as highly replicable and scalable for other shopping centers. 

Power52, $10,000, Baltimore 

The Power52 Foundation provides solar energy job training and employment for at-risk adults, returning citizens, and underserved individuals in and near Baltimore. Power52 understands the immense need for resiliency hubs in Baltimore City’s most vulnerable areas so that citizens have access to safety and essential services in times of crisis and grid outage to safeguard their livelihood and wellbeing. They are planning a resiliency hub for a to-be-constructed facility in the 21223 community, which is in dire need of a centralized, resilient community location. A resiliency hub will provide a safe facility for community residents to utilize during climatic and disaster events. Grant funds will be used for the feasibility analysis, engineering, and design of a solar and energy storage resiliency hub system at the new building.

Smart Electric Power Alliance, $99,725, Anne Arundel County

Smart Electric Power Alliance is a nonprofit that helps electric utilities implement and deploy clean energy and distributed resources. SEPA will use their grant to join forces with Baltimore Gas & Electric Company, the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis, and Gabel Associates to plan and design a community-scale microgrid for the Newtowne Twenty multifamily housing community in Annapolis. Newtowne Twenty is undergoing a community revitalization effort and the implementation of a clean energy microgrid solution will deliver lasting environmental, sustainability, and economic benefits to a community of the city’s most vulnerable populations. MEA anticipates a replicable, scalable community microgrid model.

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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.

Comments

  1. “Brandon Bowser, state energy program manager, said in a blog about the program that Maryland sought to create replicable and scalable microgrid models. The state anticipates continuing the program next year with knowledge gained from this year’s projects.”

    I find this interesting, the concept of “…replicable and scalable microgrid models.” Here we are in a time where at the utility level large solar PV panels of the 26 to 32 square foot panels that can produce up to 580 watts per panel that can be bought in manufacturing quantities at around $0.25/watt to $0.30/watt. China has announced some manufacturing product runs of bifacial panels in the 330 watt per panel generation in the $0.22/watt to $0.25/watt price point. Politically right now bifacial panels might be a “better” choice, since there are no tariffs on these solar PV panels at this time. There seems to be some ‘robust’ single axis tracking designs that have been used to track East to West panel arrays to capture more sun hours each day. One ends up trying to design a (replicable and scalable microgrid model.) , around political and technology offerings.

    Baltimore Maryland which has low electricity rates but ‘relatively high’, “average” consumption, something like 33.5Kwh a day could use a 12GWp solar PV array with a single axis tracking system to increase daily sun harvest and a 4 GWh energy storage system would decrease the need for natural gas generation plants which is said to be around 60% of the electricity generation in the area. In this case, with this population density in the area, it would make sense to have a 4GWh energy storage system to take advantage of all of the local generation. Better land use, ability to address grid demands, offer stacked grid services for revenues and be able to use arbitrage to level out electric bills and get away from that “average” 10.6 cents/kWh cost.

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