First in the Nation Municipal Microgrid Program Advances Toward Final Goal Line

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Three microgrid projects are advancing through the final stages of review, approval and funding in the fourth and final round of Connecticut’s pioneering grant program for municipal microgrids.

The projects — for a hospital, small town and naval base — are the last of 13 that won funding in four solicitations. Nine of the other microgrid projects are now in operation and one is in construction.

The state created the program in 2012, making it the first to fund municipal microgrids in the nation. Connecticut was seeking a way to keep power running for critical public facilities and services during severe weather after being hard hit in 2011, first by a hurricane and then by a freak October snowfall. Trees still laden with leaves became weighted with ice and snow and fell on power lines.

municipal microgrids

An early snow fall in Ocrober 2011 brought down tree limbs in Connecticut causing lengthy power outages in frigid weather. Photo by Gina Jacobs/Shutterstock.com

If the final microgrids all go forward, Connecticut will wind up distributing $25.7 million in state funding to build out a diverse mix of municipal microgrids across the state, said Veronica Szczerkowski, microgrid program manager in the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP). The state agency originally intended to award $30 million in project funding, but a couple of developers dropped out of the process, she added.

Bloom Energy, Constellation Energy, FuelCell Energy, Schneider Electric, and United Illuminating are among the companies that have developed the projects.

As directed by state law, the program funds microgrids for such critical facilities as hospitals, police stations, fire stations, water treatment plants, sewage treatment plants, public shelters, correctional facilites, and municipal centers.

DEEP disburses microgrid project funds in two stages, part way through construction and upon completion, as municipal microgrid developers satisfy predetermined design and performance criteria and achieve project milestones, Szczerkowski explained in an interview with Microgrid Knowledge.

An evolutionary process for Connecticut

“Resiliency was the main goal. As legislation changed and the program evolved, project criteria and plans became more detailed and technically comprehensive so as to have a better shot at being completed and reaching their goals. It took much longer than we originally anticipated, but we made it through,” Szczerkowski said.

The program evolved substantially over time as successive rounds progressed with more detailed project plans, funding availability and changes in some review criteria, Szczerkowski said.  During the first three rounds, project proposals were limited to existing generation assets and conventional, emergency back-up systemsndue to funding limitations, but could incorporate any generation source.

The result was that municipalities did not propose full microgrids, instead putting foward existing diesel generators and other power and distribution assets. The early project designs did not offer autonomous, island mode capabilities, low carbon generation, smart microgrid controls and energy management features, Szczerkowski said.

That changed as program funding increased for round four. The increase allowed DEEP to fund projects that add solar PV, battery energy storage and combined heat and power (CHP) systems, as well as intelligent, adaptive microgrid control and management platforms. DEEP turned to the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) and the Department of Energy’s Sandia National Labs to help design the scoring system and evaluate Round 4 proposals. DEEP also added geography to its criteria in an effort to spread microgrid benefits statewide, Szczerkowski said.

Round 4 projects are now making their way through the microgrid program’s contracting stage. “It will be great to see renewable, clean energy municipal microgrids up and running,” Szczerkowski said.

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Looking forward, project developers need to complete five years of reporting requirements. “Some have been completed, others are under construction, and we’re finalizing contracts for this last round…It will take upwards of three years for all the projects to be completed, then there will be a review beyond that,” Szczerkowski said.

Below is a list of microgrid projects selected in the four rounds, courtesy of DEEP. The list includes their status, loads served, resources used, and grant funds awarded.

Round 1

  • Wesleyan University, operational, campus, athletic center, (public shelter) (1) 2.4 MW and (1) 676 kW natural gas CHP reciprocating engine, $693,819
  • Woodbridge, operational, police stations, fire station, department of public works, town hall, high school, library, 2.2 MW fuel cell, $3,000,000
  • Hartford — Parkville operational, school, senior center, library, supermarket, gas station, (4) 200 kW fuel cells, $ 2,063,000
  • University of Hartford, operational, dorms, campus center, operation building, (2) 1.9 MW diesel (existing), 250 kW diesel, 150 kW diesel, $2,270,333
  • Fairfield, operational, police station, emergency operations center, cell tower, fire headquarters, shelter, 50 kw natural gas recip engine, 250 kW natural gas recip engine, 27 kW PV, 20 kW PV, $1,167,659
  • Bridgeport, operational, city hall, police station, senior center, (3) 600 kW natural gas microturbines (CHP), $2,975,000
  • Windham, operational 2 schools (various public purposes), (2) 100 kW natural gas, (2) kW diesel, $709,350

Round 2

  • Milford, under construction, Parsons Complex, middle school, senior center, senior apts, city hall, (2) 148 kW natural gas CHP units, 120 kW PV, 100 kW battery storage, $2,909,341
  • University of Bridgeport, operational, campus buildings – dining hall, rec center, student center, 2 residential buildings as shelter, police station, 1.4 MW fuel cell, $2,180,899

Round 3

  • Wesleyan University – expansion project, operational, campus buildings – dining venue, public safety building, physical plant building, existing (1) 2.4 MW and (1) 676 kW Natural Gas Combined Heat and Power Reciprocating Engine, $424,000

Round 4

  • Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception, contract negotiation, Marian Heights, St. Lucian’s Residence, Prudence Crandall Hall, and Hospital for Special Care (4), new 100 kW/255 kWh battery energy storage systems, (4) existing solar PV systems (249 kW, 216 kW, and two 120 kW arrays), 225 kW natural gas generator, $3,872,538
  • Coventry Microgrid, contract negotiation, high school, middle school, town hall, fire station, police station, town hall annex and radio tower, school admin, and two sections of Orchard Hills senior housing development, (4) 125 kW CHP units, 288 kW solar PV system, 500 kW/1500 kWh battery energy storage system, $4,000,000
  • CMEEC – SUBASE New London, contract negotiation, 45 critical facilities, including four piers, at Submarine Base New London, existing 5 MW turbine generator, (2) existing 750 kW diesel generators, (2) new 3.7 MW fuel cells $ 5,224,415

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