Ontario City Seeks Assistance with Utility Microgrid

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Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario is moving forward with plans to build a utility microgrid, and as a next step seeks assistance with project assessment.

A city of about 75,000 people near the U.S./Canadian border, Sault Ste. Marie intends to install a microgrid to improve the local utility distribution system.

Its utility, PUC Services (PUC), has been working on the project since early 2013. PUC issued a request for proposals (RFP) yesterday seeking a consultant to further analyze the utility microgrid’s economics.

Bids are due Jan. 22, 2016.

Sault Ste. Marie already is a green city. It is home to a 189-MW wind farm with enough output for a city twice the size. Some of the city’s other green energy resources include almost 400 MW of hydroelectricity, a 60-MW solar energy farm and a 70-MW combined heat and power (CHP) plant.

The utility microgrid would incorporate renewable energy and eventually CHP and electric vehicles, according to the RFP.

The RFP seeks a consultant to evaluate the overall value proposition of the utility microgrid. This includes assessing the business case and socio-economics of the microgrid.

The consultant also will recommend an accounting framework for the project to fulfill Ontario Energy Board regulations, and identify possible financing or equity partnership alternatives for the project.

Project analysis done so far indicates that the microgrid would benefit the city’s customers, the local utility and Ontario.  Specifically, the microgrid is expected to reduce system voltage and improve system efficiency and electric reliability.

The utility sees the project incorporating:

  • Conservation voltage reduction (CVR) – The city would either rebuild or replace distribution substations, including transformers and balance of systems, with equipment that includes voltage regulation technology. This would allow PUC to reduce distribution voltage at will. Voltage reduction reduces the customer’s energy consumption, thereby reducing the customer’s bill.
  • Volt/VAR optimization – Improves distribution system efficiency and reduces system losses by voltage regulation and power factor correction.
  • Distributed automation–Automated distribution system devices facilitate self-healing circuits that reduce outage times and improve reliability.
  • Demand management – The utility would control customer loads, such as hot water heaters, to reduce customer energy consumption at peak demand times.

As part of the utility microgrid project, Sault Ste. Marie also plans to seek better ways to use customer data from smart meters to manage demand.

Proposals are due to Noella Flood, purchasing agent. noella.flood@ssmpuc.com. The RFP is available on PUC’s website.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three 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.


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