Wisconsin Utility Proposes Microgrid Resiliency Program with up to 22 Projects

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In response to customer demand for increased resiliency, Xcel Energy’s Wisconsin utility is proposing a microgrid pilot program that could include 22 projects.

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Northern States Power’s Resiliency Service Pilot would be capped at 30 MW, with a third of the capacity dedicated to governmental and nonprofit entities, according to a Dec. 9 filing at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (Docket ID: 4220-TE-106)

“The company believes the pilot will lower upfront costs for participants, and provide a positive customer experience, through customized combinations of resiliency service assets that meet customers’ specific resiliency and reliability needs,” NSP said.

Program fills customer’s resilience needs

Customers interested in installing microgrids include a community center and emergency shelter, a military facility, water treatment plants, a local government, and a healthcare clinic, according to NPS. Residential and farming customers aren’t eligible for the proposed program.

The customers’ needs and circumstances vary, but a common thread runs through NSP’s discussions with the customers, according to the filing.

“Some communities, either through governmental initiatives or public-private partnerships, are establishing or increasing their focus on ‘resiliency centers to maintain stable functioning of society during and immediately following a major disruption or weather event,” the Wisconsin utility said.

Commercial and industrial customers are also increasingly considering resiliency options to meet both their reliability and power quality needs, often while also meeting sustainability goals, NSP said. 

Wisconsin utility to own, manage microgrid projects

Under the pilot, which would run through 2025, NSP will own and manage the microgrid equipment for 10 years before transferring it to the customer. The customers will pay for the microgrids through monthly charges. Customers must pay for any distribution system changes that are needed to handle a microgrid.

The customers will receive all the benefits from the microgrids, such as energy arbitrage and reduced demand charges, according to NSP.

Customers with multiple premises at the same location can bundle the premises to participate in the program, according to NSP.

NSP said it expects the program will give it experience with non-wires alternatives in place of traditional utility distribution investments.

Also, NSP expects the program could help customers, communities and the state meet their greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

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The program could lead to $17.3 million in capital costs over five years, NSP said in a rough estimate.

If approved, NSP expects to file annual reports on the program.

NSP customers support program

Among the customers supporting the program are the Gundersen Health System, the city of La Crosse’s municipal utility and the city of Eau Claire, according to letters to the PSC.

The program will reduce upfront costs for customers and provide resiliency solutions tailored to customer needs, Corey Zarecki, Gundersen director of engineering and operations, said.

“Consumers will work with [NSP] and a preferred set of vendors to design, construct and interconnect their system,” Zarecki said. “This will allow for a single point of contact throughout the process, providing a simple and efficient consumer experience.”

NSP asked the PSC to approve the program by May 1.

Lines up with state climate report

NSP said the proposal reflects a recommendation made in a state  released Dec. 9. The report from the Wisconsin Task Force on Climate Change calls for using energy storage and microgrids to maintain critical infrastructure.

The report says that increased funding to the PSC Office of Energy Innovation could help communities develop green energy infrastructure, such as microgrids.

Possible funding sources might be PSC-approved utility pilot programs with incentives and low-cost financing, the task force said.

Sister utility advances microgrids in Colorado

The NSP proposal partly builds on the experience of Public Service Co. of Colorado, a sister utility that built the Panasonic Battery Storage Microgrid in 2017 near the Denver International Airport. The microgrid, which includes a 1.4-MW solar photovoltaic system and a 1-MW/2-MWh battery storage resource, was used for the first time outside testing during a March storm that caused an outage on a feeder line, according to NSP.

The project demonstrated several grid and customer values including grid integration of high-penetration solar PV, system peak demand reduction, energy arbitrage, frequency regulation, and back-up service to an end-use customer in case of grid outage, NSP said. 

This project’s success led PSCo to propose seven additional projects totaling 6 MW/15 MWh as part of the utility’s Community Resiliency Initiative. A Colorado Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge in October recommended the commission approve the initiative, which is supported by commission staff, labor groups and an environmental group.

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