Cuyahoga Rules: Ohio County Approves Work on Microgrid Utility Project Moving Forward

Dec. 6, 2023
Compass will act as the utility operator and will begin pre-construction engineering work in January now that the contract is finalized and approved. Construction on the first three microgrids could begin in 2025.

The four-year-long mission to create a microgrid utility in this community along Lake Erie has taken a timely step toward reality with Cuyahoga County Council leaders approving a 10-year contract with Compass Energy Platform this week.

Compass will act as the utility operator and will begin pre-construction engineering work in January now that the contract is finalized and approved. Construction on the first three microgrids could begin in 2025 with completion and operation expected in 2026 and 2027, Compass Energy Platform CEO Rick Bolton said in response to questions from Microgrid Knowledge.

Cuyahoga County started its path toward developing the concept of a microgrid utility in 2019. Now, along with $1.8 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding secured by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, Compass Energy Platform will bring its own capital and engineering partners along to help build and operate the projects beginning with the Euclid, Brooklyn and Aerozone sites, the latter adjacent to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

“Today, as we face dynamic challenges presented by climate change, it is increasingly important that we commit to policies and strategies that protect our environment, support our economy, and move our communities toward a better future,” Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne said in a statement. “I look forward to what Cuyahoga Green Energy will accomplish with Compass Energy Platform as our partner.”

While the discussions go back to 2019, the Cuyahoga County government created Cuyahoga Green Energy in the fall of 2021, reportedly becoming the first new county utility in more than 75 years nationwide, officials say. The utility will unite the county’s plan for connecting community resiliency to a focus on renewable energy.

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The district microgrids will be small in scale and able to disconnect and operate independently from the main grid. During outages, control systems will enable the microgrids to operate in “island” mode and keep power continuous.

“Cuyahoga County is taking a major step forward through its new microgrid utility, facilitating sustainable and resilient energy at a municipal scale, providing security to businesses and residents while easing the consequences of climate change,” Compass Energy Platform’s Bolton added. “Compass is so excited to be a part of this innovative effort. We look forward to working with the County to establish and operate the utility, along with developing the initial microgrid projects on which the utility will depend.”

While traditional microgrids typically serve single customers or a small number of adjacent customers, Cuyahoga Green Energy’s community microgrids will serve multiple interconnected customers. These customers will share resources, including solar panels and batteries, so that energy can be used more strategically.

The initial utility microgrids will focus on commercial and industrial customers and will expand in later stages to include schools, grocery stores, fire departments, and other government and community loads, the county’s statement reads.

Compass Energy Platform will work together with Arup Engineering, which earlier contributed to the preliminary assessment done on the proposed project this year. In January, Compass will release a request for proposals to prequalify additional engineering, procurement and construction companies to partner on the projects.

In 2022, Cuyahoga County Green Energy selected Compass Energy Platform to help it develop the microgrid utility hub concept. The move is part of a wide economic development plan in the region. 

The county also issued a 2022 request for information to aid in executing this vision. Companies providing insights, in addition to Compass, included Eaton, Ameresco, Enchanted Rock, Mesa Solutions, PowerSecure, S&C Electric and Schneider Electric. 




About the Author

Rod Walton, Managing Editor | Managing Editor

For Microgrid Knowledge editorial inquiries, please contact Managing Editor Rod Walton at [email protected].

I’ve spent the last 15 years covering the energy industry as a newspaper and trade journalist. I was an energy writer and business editor at the Tulsa World before moving to business-to-business media at PennWell Publishing, which later became Clarion Events, where I covered the electric power industry. I joined Endeavor Business Media in November 2021 to help launch EnergyTech, one of the company’s newest media brands. I joined Microgrid Knowledge in July 2023. 

I earned my Bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. My career stops include the Moore American, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Wagoner Tribune and Tulsa World, all in Oklahoma . I have been married to Laura for the past 33-plus years and we have four children and one adorable granddaughter. We want the energy transition to make their lives better in the future. 

Microgrid Knowledge and EnergyTech are focused on the mission critical and large-scale energy users and their sustainability and resiliency goals. These include the commercial and industrial sectors, as well as the military, universities, data centers and microgrids. The C&I sectors together account for close to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Many large-scale energy users such as Fortune 500 companies, and mission-critical users such as military bases, universities, healthcare facilities, public safety and data centers, shifting their energy priorities to reach net-zero carbon goals within the coming decades. These include plans for renewable energy power purchase agreements, but also on-site resiliency projects such as microgrids, combined heat and power, rooftop solar, energy storage, digitalization and building efficiency upgrades.

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