How Microgrid Power Supply Studies — Done Right — Save You Money and Headaches

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A new special report series by Microgrid Knowledge and Siemens  shows microgrid developers how to avoid the pain points that can wreck the financial and operational assumptions for a project. This third article in the series outlines Step 2: Conducting Microgrid Power Supply Studies that Provide Real, Project-Specific Answers. 

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Download the full report.

A power supply study for a microgrid project is an important part of the process. A penny of planning prevents a pound of cure. Such studies add to upfront costs but can prevent costly errors and additional development steps later on. However, not all studies are created equal, nor are study providers.

The right study

Before a study begins, great care should be taken to define the study scope, which should clearly identify output requirements and the associated conditions. This upfront work will ensure a study results in the right outputs that define a project’s needs and requirements for design and interconnection.

The right study partner

Some projects involve highly technical considerations and requirements. Others are fairly straightforward. Developers need a study partner who understands what information a study should provide based on the complexity of the project as well as relevant regulations and local utility requirements.

Watch the Microgrid Knowledge webinar “Preventing Scope Gaps for Microgrid Developers: Steps to Develop Microgrids Easier, Faster, and Cheaper.”

The consequences of a study that doesn’t produce the right outputs can be fatal to a project. The Port of Long Beach in California sought a microgrid to help it reach its goal of zero-carbon emissions by 2030. The zero-carbon requirement led to a microgrid incorporating energy storage. However, planning studies for the project did not identify Southern California Edison’s (SoCalEd) Rule 18, which prohibits the utility’s customers from reselling electricity it provides from the grid. Because the microgrid’s energy storage units were partially charged with SoCalEd electricity and sold to a private business at the port, the project was nearly killed and the city of Long Beach is now engaged in a lengthy regulatory battle.

If a study’s outputs don’t clearly define key information, vendors might provide solutions that don’t fulfill project needs, resulting in plan updates, change orders and potential delays at the cost of the developer.

Here’s what a developer should be looking for in a power supply study and a study partner:

  1. The study should provide information the developer and vendors can translate into a clear set of deliverables, directly addressing the project’s needs, business case and interconnection assessment required by the relevant jurisdiction or utility.
  2. The study should follow best practices to enable effective communication and planning between developer and vendors.
  3. The study should be rightsized for the project with the necessary level of detail.
  4. The study provider should be using a set of microgrid study tools that match what vendors need to deliver the right solutions in areas like controls development.

Studies that don’t deliver on those measures result in costly scope gaps down the line. If a study’s outputs don’t clearly define key information, vendors might provide solutions that don’t fulfill project needs, resulting in plan updates, change orders and potential delays at the cost of the developer. A study for a microgrid with Level 3 EV chargers that does not specify the voltage requirements for fast charging can result in vendors supplying hardware that is insufficient. Or, in another example, a study that does not adequately define switchgear requirements, such as busbar sizing, can result in a developer making late specification changes for equipment that vendors have already procured.

The key for developers to receive studies that deliver specific best practices for a project is simple: Don’t seek studies; seek outputs from studies that provide the right, useable information. These outputs need to be well-defined and tailored for each project.

To learn more about how you can avoid the pain points of developing commercial and industrial microgrid projects, check out the previous articles in the series below:

Delivering on the Promise of Microgrids: A Guide for Microgrid Developers

Understanding Microgrid Project and Operational Requirements

Download the full report “5 Steps to Develop Microgrids Easier, Faster and at Less Cost: The Definitive Guide for Microgrid Developers,” courtesy of Siemens to learn more.

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