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Question

Has anyone implemented a multi-customer clean energy microgrid that provides always on grid support when not islanded?

Daniel Ohlendorf's picture
Program Leader *a major utility*

Experienced Energy Program Management Leader with a demonstrated history of leadership in the electric utilities industry as well as in product design and engineering companies.

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  • Apr 20, 2020
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There are multiple instances of microgrids, and there are multiple instances of using utility scale clean energy solutions for grid support.  However have any of your utilities implemented a multi-customer microgrid which provides grid support when not islanded?  I would appreciate any case studies or articles you could point me to.

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Storelectric's Compressed Air Energy Storage provides total back-up, balancing and stability for grids of 20MW to multi-GW. It can do this as it's (a) long-enough duration, (b) cheap enough per MWh and (c) inertial, providing the stability required by all grids. See articles:

Please see below for some links and resources. Particularly, the USMC microgrids may be helpful.

 

Articles in District Energy magazine   

Microgrids in Maryland, Eric Coffman, Montgomery County, MD., Department of General Services; and Rory Spangler, Maryland Energy Administration

Using control systems to optimize microgrids with CHP, Serge Zinger, Thermo Systems LLC; and Jason Wittkamp, Thermo Systems LLC

Mixing water and electricity: Thermal energy storage as a microgrid component, Edward “Ted” Borer, Princeton University 

A story of preparedness and resolve – TECO and Hurricane Harvey, Stephen K. Swinson, Thermal Energy Corp; and Jose Garcia, Thermal Energy Corp.

We have an article on NRG Princeton Hospital microgrid. 

 

Combined Heat and Power as a Source of Resilience in Microgrids, Gavin Dillingham, DOE Southwest CHP TAP; and Carlos Gamarra, DOE Southcentral CHP TAP 

 

Recent Conference Proceedings

Microgrid Resiliency Initiatives at Yale University, CampusEnergy2020 Conference

Not all microgrids are created equal: Northeastern University’s blueprint for resiliency, CampusEnergy2020 Conference

Experiences with Energy Planning for DOD Installations – Energy Projects at USMC Installations, 2017 Military Workshop

Benefits of Trigeneration for University Campuses and Data Centers, IDEA 2017 Annual Conference

Microgrid performance measurement & metrics, UT Austin, CampusEnergy2015 Conference

UT Austin Wins System of the Year Award 2018

Daniel Ohlendorf's picture
Daniel Ohlendorf on Apr 28, 2020

Thank you Allie, much appreciated.

There are surely examples of microgrids serving multiple beneficiaries — even the Borrego Springs microgrid, but that’s a single client, the municipality, that has many types of beneficiaries. 

 When it comes to multiple paying clients, I am less certain. I take this to mean that the developer is receiving revenue from multiple entities through separate contracted agreements — i.e., separate clients. I suppose the FortZED concept in Fort Collins Colorado was supposed to have flavors of that arrangement. There’s got to be more examples but I can’t think of any readily.

Hi Daniel,

As pointed by number of respondents there are some examples of this outside of the USA. in Australia the Wester Australian government made an inquiry in micro grids which a report was produced abd can be downloaded.  also a related topic which I think may produce some useful data the Virtual Power Plant program in Sowth Australia. AGL Energy produced a report that can be downloaded from here.

Otherwise feel free to write to me if you have any more questions. 

I hope this helps.

Daniel Ohlendorf's picture
Daniel Ohlendorf on Apr 28, 2020

Thank you Michael, I appreciate the links.

HI Daniel

Are you looking for US only  references or would global references?  I know  Lappeenranta-Luti University of Technology (LUT) work with the local DSO ,Suur Savon Sahko to offer PV and storage to a small neighborhood/campus. Western Power Distribution in the UK has a project called Smart Energy Isles for some of the islands in their territory.  

Daniel Ohlendorf's picture
Daniel Ohlendorf on Apr 28, 2020

Global information is great as well.  Thank you Liana.

A couple good examples that the Clean Coalition is aware of:

- The Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid (RCAM) in northern CA, which PG&E is involved with, and which features:

  • A seamless grid isolation switch that islands the Community Microgrid without any electricity service interruption to any of the 20 customers.
  • 2 MW of solar and 8 MWh of storage that are DC-coupled front-of-meter (FOM). The FOM solar+storage assets are owned by the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA), a Community Choice agency.
  • 250 kW of behind-the-meter (BTM) solar.
  • Bank of 8 Level-2 EV charging ports in a BTM configuration that is load controllable, including sheddable.
  • Full PG&E control of the distribution grid at all times.
  • All RCAM assets, both FOM & BTM, controlled by asset owners during normal grid operations and by PG&E for master control during Community Microgrid islanding operations.
  • New tariff and business model innovations.

- The Alabama Smart Neighborhood Project; see a webinar on it here:

 

I've got a number of contacts here in Australia in this space both with the asset owners and the renewables space, so will send this link to them. I can think of at a least 2 but want to double check on the "islanded" part.

Daniel - although not C&I in nature, I have seen numerous case studies on remote microgrids, primarily remote Alaska/Canada/Australia where diesel generation systems have been augmented with renewable energy and battery storage solutions.  ABB has done several of these and published case studies on them.  These microgrids really operate as the entire grid and the new renewable assets are really just additional generation sources.    

I would suspect that the financial aspects of a microgrid in a large utility territory would be more difficult than the technical aspects.  In addition the laws/rules associated with being a seller of electricity.  I would suspect that in most parts of the US we would be precluded by law from selling electricity in a monopoly electricity market.  Even in deregulated states we have regulated distribution service providers.   

Very good question, in CA with the community aggregators - they could have the power to "sub-meter" a microgrid? 

Daniel Ohlendorf's picture
Daniel Ohlendorf on Apr 28, 2020

I agree the financial aspects raise additional complexity if the microgrid is third party owned and participating in the market.  However what I am looking at here is more of a utility owned model.  There are locations in a service territory where owning and operating a microgrid can be a great customer service to help keep customers powered up during a public safety power shutoff event.  Those can be built as stand alone remote micorgrids to your point, and we are exploring that for some use cases, however it would be even more beneficial if we could leverage that microgrid for greater grid support when not islanded.

I realize the question is a few steps beyond where much of the market is - hence why it is a great challenge to explore!  Thank you for your response.

Hi Daniel: I am not familiar with examples of multi-customer microgrids with grid support, nor articles on the topic.  But, I wanted to note that I am really glad that you are looking at this topic.  We are presently exploring multiple projects that would be a multiple-customer microgrid solution. At the moment, thinking that we would need to do them behind the meter with no meter tie-in to avoid regulatory entanglement / utility monopoly conflict.  Nonetheless, I do think that multiple-customer microgrids will be a major part of our energy future.  In fact, there has been a lot of discussion about a future broad scale energy system based on an inter-tie of microgrids.  Further, renewable / energy storage technology is progressing in a manner that multiple-customer microgrids will be eminently practical, and less costly that grid supplied energy.

It would be great to have the utilities lead the way to this future, rather than battle every step of the way against what I see as an inevitable transition to this future energy system done on a city by city basis.  A carefully thought through multiple-customer microgrid intertied system offers an opportunity to move away from our status quo grid with long distance transportaion requirements and the associated issues that utilities are all to familiar with. Not to mention the vast capital cost that we face as a nation if we were to undertake the effort to upgrade our national grid to modern reliability and safety standards.

Look forward to learning more about your exploration.

Larry

 

Hi Daniel:

All of the Microgrids I've worked on are large, but for a single customer.

I believe the founder of Microgrid Labs, Narayanan Sankar has worked on some community microgrids that involve multiple customers. His email address is below.

sankar@microgridlabs.com

I will call Sankar, and tell him to expect your contact.

Also I have a late draft of a paper that I plan to post in early May on what your microgrids might look at. I'll send this to Sankar, and provide permission to send the draft to you now.

I just posted part 2 of a 2-part post on what your settlement with the State might look like. I am a PG&E customer (Livermore and Arnold) and worked with you in the past. When I worked for Landis & Gyr Systems (now Siemens Power TG Division) we built the initial SCADA System for Helms and the Generation Control system for The Geysers (when PG&E owned it).

-John

 

Daniel Ohlendorf's picture
Daniel Ohlendorf on Apr 28, 2020

Thank you John, I greatly appreciate the reference and will be reaching out to Sankar.

Daniel

John Benson's picture
John Benson on May 5, 2020

I just posted a paper that relates to your question. This is linked below.

https://energycentral.com/c/cp/five-dimensions-microgrids

-John

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