The Importance of Operator Engagement in a Microgrid Project

 Jesse Douglas, director of business development at Veolia North America, focuses on the crucial importance of operator engagement in a microgrid project. 

microgrid project

Jesse Douglas, director of business development at Veolia North America

Microgrids have been receiving a lot of attention in recent years, and for good reason. The need to increase efficiency, and environmental performance is encouraging companies, institutions and campuses to implement new ways of meeting their utility needs.

Numerous microgrid service providers today are looking to address this growing demand by offering turnkey solutions — often delivered through partnerships with technology providers, engineering-procurement-construction partners, and financiers. It is now simpler than ever for facility owners and managers who are looking to achieve greater control and independence over their utilities.

As this market continues to evolve, however, it is critical to make sure operations and maintenance teams have an active role and voice early in your microgrid project development timeline.

How operators can ensure resilience

Whoever is responsible for operating your microgrid, whether it’s internal staff or a contracted third-party operations firm, they should be tightly integrated with consulting, design, and construction professionals commissioning the microgrid project. Collaborative operations teams bring long-term and lifecycle focus to any project development while ensuring customer benefits and performance are central to the project — not just technology or logistics. This approach brings forward-thinking expertise during any infrastructure development intended to heighten a community’s efficiency and resilience.

Whoever is responsible for operating your microgrid, whether it’s internal staff or a contracted third-party operations firm, they should be tightly integrated with consulting, design, and construction professionals commissioning it.

Organizations and municipalities alike have closely engaged these parties to address a variety of infrastructure concerns, and there are several examples of systems developed and currently underway with the goal of achieving increased reliability, resiliency, and/or economic performance. SourceOne, an energy consulting division of Veolia North America, developed a 5.3-MW microgrid for a Boston-based biotechnology headquarters that ultimately reduced its energy consumption by 25 percent. It went on to withstand a massive blackout in 2012, one of the only facilities to stay operational during the outage.

How Operators Can Ensure Consistency

Oftentimes new projects, especially in microgrid development, will introduce new technology, procedures, and practices in the generation, distribution, and consumption of power. This may change how an existing system is operated, requiring specialized skills and new utiliy protocol when deploying energy assets. By involving operators and partners like SourceOne — while embracing the necessary interconnection with the local utility provider — you ensure the resources for these new projects are available on time and aligned to meet the new reality of your organization.

Effective microgrid operator engagement helps align technologies to meet the realities of business function. Click To Tweet

In this sense, effective operator engagement more appropriately aligns technologies to meet the realities of business function. It also ensures the right sizing and configuration of each asset. This reduces development and life-cycle costs, quickens overall development schedules, and brings your project goals that much closer to achievement.

How This Team Makes Your Microgrid Better

Depending on the project, the operational team’s role on a project development team may vary.

  • In the concept development phase, operations teams should be solicited for functional aspects of the system, historic performance, current operational practices, and key issues.
  • During the design development process, operators should provide insights into business function, and long-term maintainability of the system. This will ensure you can achieve a reliability-centered design and reduce lifecycle costs.
  • During the construction phase, operations should oversee and coordinate interconnections and the transition of existing to new infrastructure well in advance of any impact to system function or delivery of key services to your organization.
  • Finally, during the commissioning and startup of the microgrid, operators should take a central role to evaluate the system and ensure it is delivered in a manner that can function according to specifications and meet the ultimate goals of your development team.

Learn more about how partners like Veolia help developers succeed in a microgrid project with diverse needs and tenants in mind.

Jesse Douglas is the director of business development at Veolia North America.

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